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Star trek: Voyager 6.03b - Riddles

Stardate 532632
Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Episode propaganda

During negotiations with the Kesat government, Tuvok (Tim Russ) is zapped by a powerful energy force, suffers severe neurological trauma and emerges as a mere shell of his former self while Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) searches for the mythical species responsible for the attack in hopes of finding a cure.

While the optimistic Neelix (Ethan Phillips) keeps pushing to restore the mental prowess of the confused Tuvok, Janeway works with Naroq (Mark Moses), a Kesat Inspector, as they try to solve the enigma of the cloaking device used by the hostile Ba'neth - or "shadow people" - who seek Voyager's technical data. Even as the crew pursues the elusive Ba'neth for a solution to Tuvok's misfortune, the suddenly vulnerable Vulcan discovers emotions he never could appreciate before.

Persons of interest

  • Kate Mulgrew .... Captain Kathryn Janeway
  • Robert Beltran .... Commander Chakotay
  • Roxann Dawson .... Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, Director
  • Robert Duncan McNeill .... Lieutenant Tom Paris
  • Robert Picardo .... the Emergency Medical Hologram
  • Ethan Phillips .... Neelix
  • Tim Russ .... Lieutenant Tuvok
  • Jeri Ryan .... Seven of nine, tertiary adjunct to Unimatrix 01
  • Garrett Wang .... Ensign Harry Kim
  • Majel Barrett .... USS Voyager computer voice
  • Mark Moses .... Naroq
  • Andre Bormanis .... Storywriter
  • Robert Doherty .... Screenwriter

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Intelligence report

Tuvix: The sequel.

Like its companion episode (see Alice), Riddles revisits an earlier theme with the same characters reprising similar roles. In Tuvix, Neelix and Tuvok were joined together in a transporter accident causing lots of grief to everyone over their lost comrades and some really nasty decisions to be made about their new friend. In Riddles, Tuvok is injured in an alien attack causing lots of grief to everyone over their injured comrade and some nasty decisions to be made about their old friend's new state. This time Neelix is present but uninjured and the weight of the episode is shared between the two actors (rather than Tom Wright's third). Not only is this cheaper, it lets Ethan Phillips and Tim Russ get their teeth into a really meaty script.

In keeping with previous character specials this one serves a double helping, although both servings are not the same size (That would be boring, wouldn't it? Ye-e-es, O favourite Trekkie. Good little Star trek fans.) Tim gets the bulk of the acting to do, from stone cold Vulcan to beatific ingenu (that's a boy ingenue, folks). His portrayal of a neurologically damaged Humanoid is spot on, from physical incompetence to wide-eyed innocence to emotional dependence: brilliant! Tim's childlike glee at a kind word from Neelix or a (simple) task completed is as wonderfully endearing as it is shockingly disarming. Tuvok is a master of logic with a huge dependence on being able to repress his emotions: this episode shreds his emotional control, destroying everything he was in the process (see also Meld). Neelix and the EMH manage to put poor old humpty together again but it's mighty difficult to put an omelette back into an egg shell.

I will never look at omelette the same way again. Mmm... Vulcan brain omelette...

*Shudders*

Meanwhile, Neelix, over-emoter and worrier extraordinaire is madly in (platonic) love with the distant and superior Vulcan. From the very beginning when Tuvok welcomed him onto Voyager and gave him a free bath (well, arranged for him to have one, at least), the ferret in the bad suit has tried to make Mister Vulcan more approachable. This time he gets all that he asked for but discovers that it isn't what he wants. Ethan gets to drown himself in his character's worry then swim in its delight... a welcome change, no doubt, from pushing buttons on a replicator and stirring bits of tofu. The ambassadorial duties he picked up along the way also gets a good work out in Riddles, adding a much needed maturity to the character that didn't exist when fresh from the Delta Quadrant backblocks.

Roxann gives herself the privilege of absence from this episode while directing it (I have never been a fan of directors who give themselves big parts) and concentrates all her passion into this new role. The script has given her a long head start over other cast members turned director but it is also a script that would be easy to stuff up. The performances are finely balanced and deeply sensitive where they could be over the top Christmas ham (actors are shameless when it comes to being in the spotlight, that's why they're actors!). On the down side, there are several shots from strange angles which look as if she wanted to show what she could do. It isn't necessary. The story is enough. But try telling an actor that they don't need to do more just because they can. I have directed more actors than you've had hot dinners so I'm allowed to say things like this without being offensive. Well... without having to care about their feelings, anyway.

Mark plays at being Fox Mulder (like you didn't already realise that), which is funny in the ironic sense but doesn't do much for his résumé. Naroq's a filler character, included only to push the plot along. Likewise Janeway is sympathetic to what's going on around her (her - platonic - love for Tuvok goes way back) but is mostly stuck in the background, reacting to events rather than making them happen as she usually does. Even the almost-battle at the end is reactive rather than proactive. But that's the breaks for spending so much screentime with Mr Vulcan and his furry friend.

All in all Riddles is a real good episode that digs right into the main characters. It's well directed and well acted. gold stars for everyone.

FYI: Further xenophobe viewing opportunities: Chakotay and the Remuran renegade Kellin in Unforgettable, Data starts conspiracy theories in Clues and mythical Altea opens the iron curtain in When the bough breaks.

Security censorship classification

PG (Low level violence, adult themes)

Not for public release in Australia before date

VHS rental and retail: 6 April 2000

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