In which Janeway dabbles in necromancy.
Voyager is around a planet because their sensors can determine the nutritional content of flowers from high orbit. The question I must then posit is this – what can’t the sensors do? I have to assume they’re doing some kind of spectrometry on the light bouncing off the petals of these flowers, adjusting for interference from the atmosphere, and doing this for every species of plant on the planet. I can’t think of a more efficient way, at least. Anyway, Neelix and Tuvok are on the team – he’s excited to be down on a lush planet, and he still hasn’t stopped calling Tuvok “Mr. Vulcan.” I imagine at this point it’s the equivalent of pulling someone’s hair because you like them. It gets to the point where Neelix is singing traditional Vulcan funeral dirges at him as camping songs. Why do Vulcans have traditional dirges? It doesn’t seem logical.
When it’s time to beam back, there’s a problem with the transporter and, as you have guessed by the title and the growing sense of dread in the pit of your stomach, the one person that beams aboard is a mashup of Tuvok and Neelix, right down to the horrifying space-paisly-patterned Starfleet uniform. This new person, who will inevitably named Tuvix (because Neelok sounds kind of like an athletic injury) looks almost as dismayed as I am to be doing this episode. But let’s try to get past that. Open mind. Open heart. Let’s see what the show has to offer.
Harry calls security, and Tuvix identifies himself first as Tuvok, then Neelix, and the transporter bears him out. Next up – sick bay, a quick recap to make sure that Tuvix recognizes everyone, and if the way he looks at Kes, with a mixture of Tuvok analyzing his pupil and Neelix loving his child-bride, doesn’t haunt your nightmares, nothing will. The Doctor confirms Tuvix is healthy, and he’s also part plant – the orchids seem to have fused with him too becaise why the hell not. Janeway will send a team to collect new orchid samples, presumably in a shuttle this time, but fortunately there’s a really easy way to solve the science portion of this plot.
Kes has to administer some tests, which is very awkward, and we have the opportunity to explore Tuvix’s mental conditions. He’s got Neelix’s bubbly enthusiasm, and Tuvok’s appreciation for the crew and capacity for analysis. He’s also a single person – that is to say, he’s not two people conjoined mentally and having to speak through one mind – he’s a single person who just happens to have been two people previously. It’s here he settles on the name Tuvix. after first trying out Neevok. Then he hits on Kes, which comes out super creepy.
Janeway comes down at least to chat with him, and he’s eager to get back to work. Janeway offers him back the mess hall position, but he asks for Tactical. This is worrying to Janeway, but the Doctor vouches for him – anything to get Tuvix and his Vulcan intellectual superiority and his Talaxian most-annoying-person-in-the-world-osity out of Sick Bay. Janeway isn’t quite ready to assign Tuvix to the bridge, which seems reasonable – even if he posesses all of Tuvok’s memories and training, he also posesses Neelix’s instincts and you’d want to make sure his reactions in a crisis are still where they need to be. However, he does get to sit in on briefings.
While they’re considering the cause of the transporter accident, Tuvix bursts out with a hypothesis that the orchids reproduce, at least in part, by fusing with unrelated species. This generally only occurs on the single-cellular level, but hey, transporters. As explanations go, it’s as good as anything. Although it doesn’t explain the uniform.
As a side note, Paris seems pretty unphased by the whole thing. Maybe it’s given him a chance with Kes? Without Neelix, the Mess Hall is in complete disarray, and he quickly takes control. Kes enjoys watching it, and pay close attention to Paris, who is immediately and obviously disappointed. Tuvix is also a better chef than Neelix because he hasn’t blown out the back of his taste buds and can moderate his instincts with a little Vulcan subtlety. He’s also a better officer than Tuvok because he can admit to having hunches.
The transporter tests with the orchids are ready, and as he goes down to the transporter room, Chakotay and Janeway discuss how much better it is to have Tuvix than it was to have both Tuvok and Neelix. Chakotay seems cheerful enough, because it’s not going to be his job to make the decision we all know will come if these transporter tests work out.
Fortunately at the moment, they can’t successfully separate any of their samples and the Doctor isn’t confident that he’ll be able to do it. And Kes now has to grieve for her boyfriend and her mentor, without the benefit of either of them to lean on. Tuvok can’t comfort her, since he reminds her of what she’s lost. Similarly, Tuvix loves both Kes and Tuvok’s wife T’pel, but as long as they’re stuck in the Delta quadrant, it’s kind of a love-the-one-you’re-with situation.
Kes goes to Janeway for some guidance. Janeway has some wise words, but they mostly boil down to ‘we’re all separated from our loved ones and might never see them again. It sucks, yo.’ Giving up hope isn’t the answer, but there are no quick fixes. The talk seems to have helped Kes, although it seems to have been a little disquieting to Janeway.
Time passes, and the crew gets used to Tuvix, and we continue to reinforce that Tuvix is better in pretty much every way than the mere sum of his components. Thus, the downstroke. The Doctor has had an idea and interrupts Harry practicing his clarinet. Now Tuvix is hustling pool with the regulars, even Kes is ready to start talking to him on a personal level. Thus, it’s clear that the idea has worked.
The treatment is based on the idea of barium highlighting for X-rays, only this time they’re going to selectively irradiate one DNA sequence, target the transporters on it, and beam that out. If pressed, I would have to speculate that the mass comes from wherever it went in the first place, or else they’ll wind up beaming in two masses of protoplasmic goo. Also, since Tuvix has been saving the ship a person’s worth of replicator rations for weeks and possibly months, it seems only fair that he should get to use them like this.
Of course, now that this is an option, Tuvix doesn’t want to die. Now comes the interesting part, where you have to choose your metaethic. If Tuvix is 50% better than Tuvok and Neelix at each of the things they do, does that justify letting two people who are already dead stay dead? Should they kill one person in exchange for two? What if those two are contracted for the two episodes left in the season? In fact, Janeway admits to Chakotay that if they’d been able to change him back immediately she wouldn’t have hesitated, but now that he’s made friends the problem is actually sticky. Which implies that as far as Janeway’s interpretation of the Federation’s right to self-determination is concerned, you’re only a real person if people like you. I guess Reg Barclay was absolutely right to be afraid of transporters.
And now Janeway has to convince Tuvix, a fully grown individual. that a) the decision on how to proceed is Janeway’s to make, and b) that Tuvix should let himself be murdered. Janeway’s position is that Tuvix, by his continued existence, is accessory to murdering Tuvok and Neelix, and that either of them would give up their lives to save others so Tuvix should too. And I’m honestly not sure whose side the episode wants me to be on, but if I’m supposed to be at all sympathetic to Janeway they did a really poor job. Pro tip: if you want to make a position morally justifiable, don’t have the victim quote Shylock. I have to believe that is, in fact, the point during this act, because nobody could be quite that tone-deaf.
Of course, Now Tuvix has to go ask for external advice, and he starts with Kes, which is super rough. Janeway seems offended and angry that Tuvix would do such a thing, which is fair. But it’s not like she offered any kind of trial or debate, either. If someone said to you ‘oh hey, by the way, I might sacrifice you to the outer nothingless to raise two people from the dead’ what cards wouldn’t you play to keep that from happening?
Now that defusion is an option, everyone is suddenly exceptionally cold to him. That’s one way to solve a problem, I guess – bully him until he’s suicidal. If only they’d given it more time it might have worked, but she has to have security drag him off the bridge. She does give him the opportunity for a little “you all suck but I forgive you” speech on the way to his execution.
The Doctor grants him a stay of execution, only not really. His Do No Harm oath compels him to abdicate from the procedure. I wonder if, had he been flesh-and-blood and not subject to sumamry deactivation, he would have tried to stop Janeway. Fortunately for the SAG contracts, the operation is entirely transporter-based and Janeway can perform the whole thing herself. Which, while I think she’s doing the exact wrong thing in this episode, at least she’s not forcing anyone else to participate. Call this another data point in her downward slide into madness.
Oh, and all we get when it’s over is a tracking shot following Janeway out, looking like she’s about to puke over the decision she’s made. Which is a good choice. But what there isn’t is any discussion of whether Tuvok and Neelix have any memory of their time together as Tuvix.