|Tuvix begs for his life before the entire bridge crew.|
One of the aspects of 20th Century thinking that bleeds into Star Trek quite a lot is a focus on individuality - the loss of individuality is the reason why we're meant to fear The Borg, while elsewhere the rights of the individual to expression both political and artistic has been the subject of many an episode. As is so often true in Voyager, this week's episode examines these themes through a weird and wonderful premise which, while not well-thought-out in its inception, ends up creating a moral issue which is meant to be as divisive as Star Trek can ever possibly get. The question - would you kill an innocent man if it brought back two of your dead friends?
Tuvok and Neelix are on an away mission, and Neelix is being a first class douche. When they're transported up to the ship, the result is a single individual, Tuvix (Tom Wright), who has the memories of both men but a single, combined consciousness. At first he's viewed with suspicion by the crew, but he is able to take up the roles of both Neelix and Tuvok as security officer and cook, and as well as doing both their jobs he forms a unique personality of his own. When the technology emerges to seperate the two out again, Tuvix refusesto go through with it, stressing his desire to survive and his right to live as in individual. Tuvix goes to friend Kes for help, who then pushes Captain Janeway to force him to go through with the seperation.
The argument that Janeways makes is linked directly to the Star Trek theme on Utilitarianism, stressing the sacrifice of the few for the benefit of the many. This has many ups and downs here, and there are some clear flaws in her reasoning. When the Doctor claims that Tuvix may never be seperated, the crew mourns for Tuvok and Neelix as if they are dead, and yet when the technology arises, Janeways bases her entire argument around what the two people would have wanted. "They would want to live," she says, angrily trying to emotionally blackmail Tuvix by talking about families and friends who miss them. The thing is, they're already dead. You mourned them, you said goodbye to them. And I'm sure that they aren't happy when they get back to discover that their resurrection was made possible through the murder of an innocent man.
|Janeway makes a hard decision. From TrekCore|
Star Trek tries to do a lot of things, and far too often when it tries to incite passion and opinion in the audience it falls a little short of expectations. The basic premise of Tuvix, of blending two people together with a magic transporter accident, is a stupid one - nobody is denying that. But the moral dilemmas it actually creates is one that I've always loved simply because it arises out of people's relationships, out of biases, and because it makes you demonise the main cast of characters intentionally - that's the good thing. The fact that in the next episode I'm still bitter at what Janeway's done, that I can't look at her in the same way - that's the mark of a powerful script and a memorable episode of this brilliant, brilliant show.
NEXT WEEK: Did you ship Janeway/Chakotay before this? Do you like romance episodes where the two leads have constant UST but never act on it? Did you want to see Kate Mulgrew talk to a monkey? We take a look at Janeway and Chakotay's Resolutions.