Subtitle: blame it on the space cloud (Happy 50th Anniversary Star Trek!)
Summary: Voyager’s encounters with a promising gaseous anomaly triggers a repressed memory in Tuvok and only a mind meld can save his sanity.
Grade: B (a C story elevated by the appearance of Sulu and Rand)
Etc. I watched The Undiscovered Country just days before watching this episode, which I think is the ideal way to do it. Taken on its story merits, this episode is a miss. There’s no there there, as the saying goes:
- Tuvok sees a space cloud and is suddenly afflicted with a brain deteriorating memory of a girl he failed to save as a child. Voyager encounters space clouds every other day, has he really never seen a blue one before? I know he left Starfleet but it’s been 80 years! And he saw it on the viewscreen so it’s not a ‘Spock flies into V’Ger’ moment, either. He doesn’t have to touch it or interact with it in any way. I suppose ‘through a viewscreen’ is the trigger but it seems a stretch to me.
- Not that the virus makes any sense anyway. It passed from Tuvok’s roommate to Tuvok upon his death? I guess? And then lay dormant for 80 years until he sees a blue nebula (through a viewscreen) and it comes back…? That’s not how any of this works!
- And then the Doctor immediately discovers, diagnoses, and defeats the virus. Mostly off screen. Is he EVER so Doctor ex Machina as in this moment?
But if we completely ignore how silly the plot it, it’s a lovely episode full of nice moments.
- Before Tuvok’s collapse there is a bidding war for how to use the magic space cloud dust they are venturing in to obtain in the first place. Neelix wants it for cooking and B’Elanna for warp engines and Tuvok for shields. I love cute little interactions like that.
- Kes and Tuvok have a wonderful scene in his quarters. He is frustrated and she listens and he’s upset but Vulcan and she says “I understand” and it’s clear they are communicating on other levels and I just love them. She would be such a great counselor and he’s such a good mentor.
- And then there’s Janeway and Tuvok who are literally described as family. I just love them so much? As perfect space besties aka family, but also they really should kiss.
- And within their beautiful bonding we get Tuvok backstory! He joined Starfleet at the behest of his parents, but hated it, and left. Then he tried Kohlinar but it was interrupted by Pon Farr so he got married and had a family. At which point Tuvok realized his parents never meant to force Starfleet on him, he reconsidered what it had to offer, and went back. And that’s when he met Janeway and so it was clearly the best decision he ever made 😉
- But the highlight of the episode is obviously the appearance of Captain Sulu and Janice Rand. It’s wonderful to see Sulu in command and he gets this perfect line: “You’ll find that more happens on the bridge of a starship than just carrying out orders and observing regulations. There is a sense of loyalty to the men and women you serve with. A sense of family.” It’s so beautiful because at the time Sulu said it to him, Tuvok didn’t have that and could’t imagine it being true — but in the “now”, revisiting it with Janeway, he absolutely does. She is standing right beside him. And he’s already proven he will absolutely go against orders and regulations for her.
- And Rand! She’d had cameos in the films but here she’s a real part of the story. She’s a Commander, which is especially important given this line: “Trying to make Lieutenant in your first month? I wish I’d have thought of that when I was your age. Took me three years just to make Ensign.” I love this, it feels meta because the character and actress were mistreated in TOS.
Finally, my headcanons:
- Sulu and Rand interact in their first appearance in the first episode of TOS, “The Man Trap” and not again until their last appearance in the final TOS movie, The Undiscovered Country, and this episode of Voyager. But based on these two interactions I believe they are close friends, ‘like family’. He looks out for her and she takes care of him.
- So Tuvok and Rand have this exchange:
RAND: How are you this morning, Ensign?
TUVOK: I am well, Commander. Thank you.
RAND: I thought you might like to see some of this morning’s com traffic before you went on duty. There’s a message from the Yorktown I think you might be interested in. It’s from your father.
- Okay, so, in Star Trek Beyond the Yorktown is a starbase. And Spock and Uhura are having relationship trouble because he thinks he has to have Vulcan kids to repopulate the species (Spock, you’re half-human, your bloodline is already diluted, have more part-Vulcans and raise them within the Vulcan culture). And later in this episode we get all the backstory about Tuvok joining Starfleet because his parents wanted him to (which is the opposite of Spock’s in TOS — he’d joined Starfleet against his parents’s wishes). I know it doesn’t make sense in canon because this episode aired in 1996 but Tuvok is totally Spock and Uhura’s kid. Like, you will not convince me otherwise. And he’s so ‘ugh, humans’ in this episode because, like his dad, he is under the silly impression that he has to be more Vulcan to prove himself. I love my dysfunctional Vulcan family.