Star Trek Voyager: Innocence

"We often fear what we do not understand."

Tuvok crash-lands on an empty moon, where three children whose guardians have also been killed in a crash landing ask for his protection, because they've been sent there to die.

This episode sounds like a recipe for disaster - Tuvok, stranded in a forest with a bunch of kids. And yet, because it's Tuvok and he is awesome, it works. Tuvok has endless patience and, deep down, a lot of compassion, however repressed - though of course, images like him stoically enduring being hugged by three children are very funny. We get to see how Vulcan parents bring up their children, with simple meditation exercises and a reassuring brand of logic, and the script also makes use of the fact that Tuvok is the only regular character who is a parent, something we were reminded of in the previous episode. He talks a little bit about his children here, and once again Tim Russ is able to convey deep but repressed emotion, which cannot be easy.

Unfortunately, what doesn't work is the SF concept behind the episode. This entire race of Benjamin Buttons ages in reverse - so, how are they born? (Tiny elderly people like Button, I guess?). How could people with 90+ years of experience possibly 'revert' to a state of innocence - or is the implication that the memory loss is part of how this happens? And why do the 'kids' think that their parents died in a spaceship crash? OK, they have memory loss, but have they forgotten how their entire species lives and ages? That's not senile dementia that's... poor plotting.

Like season one's 'Cathexis' and 'Faces' and season two's 'Persistence of Vision', 'Cold Fire' and some of the shots in 'Deadlock', not to mention Janeway's thankfully long-forgotten holodeck novel, there are hints of horror fiction around this episode - the children's story of a monster that will take them one by one sounds reminiscent of something that might appear on Buffy or Supernatural. The monster turns out to be just a story, but it still provides an interesting and spooky vibe to the episode. As in Doctor Who, a little horror every now and again can liven up the show both visually and in terms of narrative.

Bits and pieces

 - Tuvok doubts the existence of the katra after death, even though the events of Star Trek III would seem to establish fairly clearly that it exists.

 - Tuvok plays the lute, which sadly he doesn't have with him - but we do get to hear Tim Russ' very nice voice singing a Vulcan lullaby. He and the Doctor should get together to do a musical episode.

 - For a being who represses all emotions, Tuvok is surprisingly good at comforting a dying man in the cold open - and of course, it turns out that's what he's been doing throughout the entire episode.

 - Janeway just wants to get going without bothering with pre-flight protocols. I love that her most consistent personality trait is her tendency to just charge ahead like a bull in a china shop.

 - The use of the word 'reformation' to describe Amish-style turning away from technology is interesting (in English history, 'the Reformation' refers to the creation of the Church of England by Henry VIII and is roughly contemporary with the Renaissance, which emphasised technology and research).

 - Janeway flirting watch: She and Chakotay are looking cosy again, chatting in the lift. He tells her a cute story about accidentally propositioning an ambassador. He must have forgiven her for the whole Paris debacle (and Tuvok's out of the way for a while).

 - Shuttlecraft count: Tuvok and Ensign Bennet crash in one shuttle, Janeway and Paris chase them in another. However, Tuvok implies he can get back in his own shuttle at the end, so we'll charitably assume he was able to fix it.

This episode is the source of one of my favourite Voyager bloopers - around 0.42 on this video:


Corin (re Tuvok's children): What are they like?
Tuvok: Well behaved.

Tuvok: My attachment to my children cannot be described as an emotion. They are part of my identity, and I am incomplete without them.

Tuvok (on the afterlife): I do believe there is more in each of us than science has yet explained.

Tuvok: I never understood the practice in some cultures of describing ferocious creatures in an attempt to lull children to sleep.

Tressa: What's going to happen to me?
Tuvok: All I can tell you is, I will be here with you.

The story makes no sense, but I'm a sucker for a good Tuvok episode. Two and a half out of four cave monsters.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

1 comment:

Dustin said...

I've always been put off by this episode because of the Johnathan Winters from Mork and Mindy aspect of the aliens aging in reverse. I couldn't get past how totally ridiculous this is. Also irritating is that they lose yet ANOTHER shuttle. However, the character building for Tuvok is very good.