Voyager rewatch 6.06 – “Riddles”

Tuvok comes to return Neelix’s friendship, and all it took was a traumatic brain injury.

The problem I’m having with season 6 of Voyager is that we’re not even halfway through the season, and already I’m like, “Really? More super-paranoid and hostile aliens?”

And I think this might be a me problem. Yes, it’s a trope Voyager leans on far too often, but I didn’t mind until I noticed. Now it’s all I see. “Oh look, another set of xenophobes, boy, this sure is a bad neighbourhood, Voyager should have locked the doors when they turned onto this street.” Like. Who’s the real xenophobe here?

That complaint aside, I really like this episode. We haven’t checked in on the Neelix-Tuvok bromance (that is neither fraternal nor romantic) since season 3’s “Rise“, which concluded with Tuvok granting Neelix his grudging respect.

A little has changed between then and now — Neelix does the occasional security shift — but they haven’t had a great deal of one-on-one time. The status quo remains essentially unchanged: Neelix wants a level of emotional and social connection that Tuvok is both unwilling and unable to give. There’s a lack of respect on both sides, and while it’s easy to say that Neelix should respect that Tuvok is An Introvert, I think Tuvok could be kinder to Neelix.

Enter the traumatic brain injury

Now, I feel like I might have the wrong priorities with this episode. Tuvok is attacked, and we got a lot of faffing about with sickbay and mysterious aliens and Alien Fox Mulder. And I was like, “Yeah, but when do we get to the REAL plot, ie, Tuvok has lost his memory? You know, the PLOT?”

Tuvok’s injury and recovery is very much the A-plot, but this is actually a Neelix story. Which, from a disability rights perspective, I don’t love. That Tuvok’s condition will be magically cured before the end credits is built into Voyager’s DNA, but I wish we had more of Tuvok in his own right, and less about disability makes him kinder. There are tropes here that I don’t like at all.

And yet I do like this episode. And I think that comes down to the work of Tim Russ and Ethan Peck, and their chemistry as Neelix and Tuvok effectively rebuild their relationship from the ground up. Kate Mulgrew also gets some fine work: Janeway is clearly hurt that Tuvok doesn’t seem interested in recreating their old friendship, but she doesn’t make it his problem.

(We shouldn’t stop to think too hard about the fact that Tuvok sans memories and emotions is just a super chill guy who wants to make desserts. What happened to the much vaunted Ultra Powerful And Dangerous Vulcan Emotions?)

The B plot is that Mulder is nothing without Scully

The episode’s guest star is Mark Moses (later Duck “DOG ABANDONER” Phillips in Mad Men) as Naroq, an alien investigator who is obsessed with finding the mysterious attack-ships-and-wipe-brains aliens. He’s a Mulder figure — he thinks his government is covering up the attacks for its own reasons, and is determined to find the truth.

Which he does! And then he hands the technology he used to locate the Memory Wiping Guys over to them as part of a deal to get Tuvok’s memory restored.

You know how some people have Main Character Energy? Naroq has Supporting Character Energy — his own story and priorities are abandoned in favour of Voyager’s, which is inevitable to an extent when you’re a guest star, but this makes no sense at all. We’re meant to believe that all he wanted was to be proven right, and now he has that knowledge, he’s just going to hoard it away in his heart.

I don’t actually think he needs a Scully, but I do think he needed a companion from his own culture to provide contrast. (But also, it’s weird how Star Treks of this era kept alluding to Mulder and Scully but leaving out … Scully. See, for example, Dulmer and Lucsly in DS9, whose names are literally anagrams of “Mulder” and “Scully”, but they’re both middle-aged dudes.)

Other observations

  • With no due respect to Neelix, his “riddle” is in fact a joke. Get it together, sir.
  • I’m a little concerned that I’ve talked my way around into disliking this episode, and that is why analysing things and thinking about them is a mistake.
  • I’m all about living and let live, but seriously? We’re just gonna let these guys go on attacking people and wiping their brains? Naroq’s not even going to … I dunno, try to open diplomatic relations to cut down on brain wipes?

In conclusion

Obviously thinking about this episode was a mistake, but there are still worse ways to spend 45 minutes of your life. Three delicious desserts out of five.

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