The mind-meld. A personal and private technique or a tool to be used on a whim? Tuvok explores this when a grisly murder occurs in the episode that was originally broadcast on February 5, 1996. This is Meld.
Captain’s Log Stardate Undetermined: Meld
After a mind-meld with a killer on board Voyager, Tuvok finds himself being driven insane.
After Tom Paris starts a betting pool using replicator rations as collateral and while Neelix attempts to get Tuvok to smile while in the mess hall together, a body is discovered in one of the EPS conduits in engineering. (No, Tuvok didn’t kill Neelix). It soon becomes apparent that the crewman, who was unlucky enough to be named Darwin, was killed and hidden in the EPS conduit in hopes the body would be vaporized.
Mouting an investigation, Tuvok discusses the situation with Janeway and Chakotay who are dismayed that something like this could happen on Voyager. Chakotay surmises that the only one of his crew who would be capable of such a thing is the Betazoid crew-member, Ensign Suder, as the Commander has seen violent tendencies from him before. Although Suder denies it when he is initially interviewed his guilt is all but certain when The Doctor finds Suder’s DNA on Darwin’s body. Confronting Suder again, Tuvok get’s to the truth and is clearly unsettled by Suder’s admission of guilt. The Betazoid’s reason for murder? None, just that Darwin ‘looked at him the wrong way’.
Investigating the situation further, Tuvok presses the Doctor to determine if Ensign Suder could have had some medical reason for his violent tendencies. Finding nothing medically wrong with Suder, Tuvok finds himself driven to find out ‘why’ Suder committed this heinous crime. Reminded that everyone has violent tendencies by the Doctor, Tuvok decides to try to help the murderer. Visiting with Suder in the brig, Tuvok offers a mind meld as a way to help the Betazoid control his violent tendencies. Suder agrees and they go through with the meld.
The next day Tuvok reports his findings to Janeway indicating what he has learned through the mind-meld. It seems that Suder truly can not control his violent tendencies and simply struck out. Janeway and Tuvok try to determine the best course of action in how to deal with Suder. Although Tuvok suggests execution, much to Janeway’s dismay, she decides on permanently confining him to his quarters under heavy guard for the remainder of their journey. Not long after, In the mess hall, Neelix attempts to get Tuvok to smile once again and Tuvok violently lashes out strangling the Talaxian to death. Satisfied with the results Tuvok shuts the holodeck program down.
As Tuvok deals with his anger issues, Tom Paris’ gambling ring is shut down by Chakotay much to the Lieutenant’s chagrin. It soon becomes clear that Paris has little respect for Chakotay in his response to the reprimand.
After visiting a now calm and collected Suder in the brig, Tuvok realizes that he is taking on the violent tenancies that plagued Suder. Refusing to meld with Suder again, Tuvok decides to lock himself in his quarters, removing his own security clearance and alerting Janeway to his current situation. Rushing to the side of her Security Chief, Janeway finds Tuvok’s quarters in disarray. Although Tuvok warns the Captain not to confront him, Janeway convinces the distraught Vulcan to join her in sickbay.
In sickbay, the Doctor discovers a significant imbalance in Tuvok’s brain. It seems Tuvok’s mind meld with Suder is having a drastically negative effect on the Vulcan officer. Starting a regimen to help Tuvok get through this issue, The Doctor temporarily removes all of the Vulcan’s emotional mental blocks. Tuvok awakes revealing a dark and violently emotional person which frightens Captain Janeway. Tuvok once again suggests killing Suder and, now, himself as well. Before long Tuvok breaks out of sickbay and hunts down the Betazoid killer.
Confronting Suder, Tuvok initiates a mind meld with the intent to use it as a weapon against the murderous crew-member. Despite his violent tendencies, Tuvok finds himself unable to commit this act of violence and Suder contacts the bridge to alert them of Tuvok’s condition.
In the end the Doctor indicates that Tuvok is indeed showing progress seeing that the Vulcan could not kill the murderous Ensign. Janeway get’s Tuvok to agree that he will conduct no additional mind melds without her express permission.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This episode is one of my favorite but also one that poses many problems in the mythos & Continuity of Star Trek. While I love the exploration of Violence and getting to see a Vulcan with their control completely stripped, something we haven’t seen in quite a while, not to mention the incredible performance of Tim Russ, the issue I have with this episode is the casual use of the Vulcan Mind meld and the sudden introduction of a violent crew-member who we have somehow avoided for the past year.
Let’s start with the Mind Meld. Normally a very private thing, the Vulcan Mind meld is something that is usually not meant to be used casually in every day life. Established in TNG as a very personal and private act, it seems that Tuvok is from the ‘School of Spock’, when it comes to the use of this ‘ancient custom’ employing the technique in his duties as a Star Fleet Security officer. Spock honestly has a good excuse being half human, but Tuvok as a full Vulcan should have maintained a might more control. I had honestly hoped that the writers of Voyager would follow suit with the rules established in the Next Generation indicating that casual use of this method was not something that was tolerated any longer. Even Spock, who is one of the biggest offenders of Mind Meld Abuse acknowledges how private this act is in the two part episode Unification. Unfortunately this is not the case for Voyager and this will certainly not be the last time we see the Mind Meld used as a convenient plot tool on the series.
In discussing this matter with my wife, she brought up a very good point that has yet to really be explored. Could this flagrant use of the Mind Meld be caused by the negative influence of Humans on Vulcans? Consider the fact that the two Vulcan Characters we have known the longest, Spock and Tuvok, have both shown themselves to have a rather cavalier attitude when it comes to the employment of such techniques. Their biggest similarity is that both serve on a crew composed mostly of Humans. Is this rather abnormal Vulcan mentality simply the result being among humans for too long? Is this why Spock chooses to return to Vulcan after the original series to undergo the Kolinahr ritual and purge his emotions? Was that a way to get this corruption out of his system? Seems like Tuvok needs to take some time reacquainting himself with his Kolinahr rituals…the dude needs some ‘me time’.
The other issue I have is with the existence of Lon Suder on Voyager. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Brad Dourif got a chance to play such a cool character but for him to suddenly appear after being aboard for so long seems a little odd. I mean, sure, Voyager has been lost for what 8 months now, so maybe…just maybe we haven’t encountered him yet but it seems like a stretch for someone who has such violent tenancies. Honestly, I wish the writers has set this up earlier in the series. Imagine this being hinted at with an unexplained death in an earlier episode and there being a subtle investigation as the series progressed with additional deaths popping up. Seems a lost opportunity but I have to be honest, any chance to bring in Brad Dourif is a good one so this one gets a pass.
Overall, this is a pretty incredible episode that surprisingly has some ramifications down the road. Tim Russ shows himself to be a very versatile and powerful actor showing us just how violent a Vulcan can be. I mean, Neelix really doesn’t realize just how close to death he comes literally every day. Imagine if he ran across that Holodeck program? Tim Russ letting go coupled with Brad Dourif’s naturally creepy nature, I mean this dude was Chucky in Child’s Play, you can not get much darker and cooler than this. Final verdict, solid episode as long as you don’t dive in too deep.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, 34 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, 5 remaining.
- We get another hint of Tom Paris being insubordinate toward Chakotay. I wonder what is going on here….hmmmmm
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Dreadnought
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Late To The Game 6/15/2020
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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