In which Tuvok learns, and unlearns, to be a cold emotionless robot.
We are in a firelit cave, looks like in Tuvok’s memories of some meditation spot on Vulcan. For my money, one of the things that sells Vulcans as alien is the apparent lack of contraditcion in adhering to logic as a dogma while adorning it with all the trappings of mysticism. But the young boy is here to learn discipline, but he’s not here of his own free will – he’s been banished by his father and his school because of his refusal to deny his emotions according to the teachings of Surak. The old Vulcan master teaches that emotions are powerful, but must be controlled, which finally intrigues young Tuvok enough to stay voluntarily.
And now we’re on a barren planet with what look like two crashed ships on the surface and a woman in a stillsuit hunting crab-spiders. Overhead a giant vortex swirls and disgorges a falling star that turns out to be a Federation shuttle. By the time she gets there it’s been abandoned and she goes scavenging. Tom comes back and surprises her, so she mugs him for his stuff too before leaving. On her way out, she’s pursued by a pair of lizard-dudes and saved by Tuvok doing Vulcan martial arts. They make introductions – she s Noss.
Paris is trying to run up a distress call when Tuvok returns with her. Apparently a slight bruise on the cheek means she requires medical attention. I guess it’s a good way to earn trust. The shuttle is basically totaled, and comms are up but getting bounced back by the distortion that sucked them down into a solar system stuck in a pocket of subspace. They have the Doctor’s mobile emitter too, although it’s not working. To make matters worse, the lizard-dudes have sent a whole squad to do their own ‘salvage’ of the new shuttle. They grab everything they can carry and go to Noss’ shelter to make preparations.
Noss lives in a much bigger ship with the boxy shape of a cargo hauler. Cargo haulers across the universe are all the same – spacious boxy rooms. On this one, there’s a working force field, but the debris of the engine is two miles away. The tricorder can tell that even at this distance, even through debris. Meanwhile, Paris has managed to repair the Doctor, just in time to startle Noss. But as it turns out, he can speak to her. The rest of their Universal Translators are broken, but the doctor has one in software. Also, now that her facemask is off, we can see that she’s Tank Girl, and in her 14 seasons (years?) on the planet, shes seen a lot of ships arrive, and none leave.
Paris is terrible at hunting crabspiders. They’ve gotten to the point of being able to communicate without the Doctor, so Tuvok wants to shut down his emitter to save power. Also, Noss is bonding with the rest of them over time – making small talk with Tuvok, hearing Tom talk about B’Elanna, cooking spiders in their ship. Also, Tuvok has no idea when people are flirting with him, or else he’s still holding himself to his wedding vows, despite the logical probability that they’ll never see each other again.
Flashback to Young Tuvok, being angsty and teenaged in Vulcan training. He has the hots for a girl, and she does not experience emotions back at him. His teacher explains how love is a dangerous gateway emotion that produces a lot of worse, harder emotions.
Meanwhile, the shuttle has been missing from Voyager for an hour, though it’s clearly been much longer on the planet. Voyager, in searching, encounters the same gravity shear that sucked in the shuttle. Soon they too will crash on the planet, unless they can successfully escape its pull, which they do. At least now they know what happened to the shuttle.
Under study, they find out what Tom already told us – this 600-meter wormhole contains a solar system. And to complicate matters, another vessel, one crewed by the lizard-people that attacked Noss, locks on its tractor beam to try to tow Voyager to safety. Supervisor Yost is from Rennovation Team Nova, who is patroling the distortion in preparation to close the rift. Since they can’t rescue anyone (having lost 11 ships in the attempt) they’re just going to seal it up. Very civic-minded people. He warns them that he’s going ahead with his mission and they have less than 24 hours, but he won’t stop them otherwise.
The bad news is that most other phenomena that look like this have no exits. The good news is that at least probe telemetry can escape this one. And they’ve found lifesigns of their crew. And that inside the sinkhole, it’s been three months, and the sinkhole is basically ready to tear itself apart.
At some point, Tuvok gets himself horribly injured in an ambush, and they have to reactivate the Doctor to treat him, for the first time in two months. Noss eventually nurses Tuvok back to health, then runs smack up against his lack of emotions.
The good news is that the probe can be reconfigured to be a transporter relay. The shuttle’s a lots cause, but they can get word in and their people out, eventually, as long as Yost doesn’t start ahead of schedule. Oops.
So at this point, very little on the planet matters, except inasfar as it gives us some insight into Vulcan mental discipline. So we watch Tuvok meditating on pride rock and getting yelled at by Paris about how he treated Noss. Tuvok tells Tom that it’s pointless to try to let someone down easy, based on his training as an angsty child, and how he had to study to overcome his feelings. They share a real moment before the distortion starts barking due to Yost’s closure efforts.
Because of the drama, Tom and Tuvok will have to be right next to each other to get beamed out. Nobody even mentions the doctor up on the ship, but hopefully the message (which comes through very slowly and appears to have been sent nine hours ago due to the distortion) mentions the beam, and also the time differential. They have a little over two days in total, but sadly they’re about to be the subjects of a siege.
The lizardfolk start trying to blow apart the force field with photon grenades. We speed forward to the end, when Noss sacrifices herself to repair the field generator. At 20 seconds outside, they have ten minutes inside, and the field goes down. Tuvok rescues her again, and they limp back to the ship. One of the lizardfolk breaks though at the last second, and for a moment it almost looked like he was going to beam back with them, explain things to Yost, and they were going to have a diplomatic victory. But nope. They beam back aboard and Tuvok friendzones Noss to Harry before taking her home.
Tom and Tuvok get in a final scene in the finest traditions of the McCoy-Spock dynamic. I wish they could keep that up, but a lot of the running-joke-ness of that dynamic gets lost with a more ensemble cast. Tuvok does leave Noss with a mind meld, though, so she can keep a part of him with her, and understand why it wouldn’t have worked between them.