VOY: S6E06: “Riddles”

In which we all watch carefully for corpsing, a superhuman manchild is off the leash, and Neelix is helpful. 

The stage direction to Tim Russ here was “do some rad air guitar.”

The Delta Flyer has been used as a torture device for Tuvok, by forcing him to escort around Ambassador Neelix. Talaxian Road Trip games include Species Starship Anomaly, which is like 20 questions only you have fifteen questions and the deliniation seems somewhat arbitrary. Also, riddle contests. By which Neelix actually means a pun puzzle. Having been thoroughly driven out of the cockpit, Tuvok wanders to the back to read and finds the tactical station in use by a cloaked intruder, who attacks him with a seizure ray. Neelix quickly calls for Voyager to rescue them.

In sick bay, it seems Tuvok is in neuraleptyc shock. Neelix and Janeway both fully know their way around sick bay, or at least the crash cart. Training has been kept up, I guess. They get him stabilized, but it’s been a long time and there’s probably damage. Neelix didn’t find any trace of the attackers on the way back, but to be fair he was kind of busy. Fortunately, they have trading partners in the area to check in with.

The Ksot send a deputy investigator Nuroc to come meet with them. He seems competent and professional, and tells them about the B’nef – the Shadow People. They are xenophobic and probably responsible for several pirate attacks, but the official Ksot position is that the B’nef do not exist. Few encounters, no proof, but Nuroc is a bit of a Muldur and eager to help prove things. Their MO so far is to check out the tactical data of new arrivals and use neurological weaponry on anyone who sees them. They destroyed his tricorder, but Nuroc brought his ghost hunting equipment.

Tuvok has done better, brain-wise, than any of the other previous victims. If they had a mechanical mind-meld enhancer, they might be able to peek into Tuvok’s brain, but there’s no guarantee there’s even anything still there at this stage, nor that an untrained person could make use of it. Neelix ants to help, and when it becomes clear that this is an issue of pyschological health for Neelix, the Doctor suggests talking to Tuvok in an attempt to annoy him awake. His first plan is to bring everything Tuvok owns into Sick Bay, and blaring Vulcan chanting. It seems to have worked, though – Tuvok is sitting up and looking around, but doesn’t seem to be in control of his faculties, or remember what a tricorder is.

“He stood very still to make sure we could get a really good image of him.”

Nuroc has found some traces of the B’Neth cloak, which they will be able to illuminate to get an outline of the B’neth that attacked Tuvok, and they appear to be insectoid monopeds with four tentacles. Or perhaps they’re quintapeds. Either way, that illumination technology, when integrated with Voyager systems, could counter the B’neth cloak.

Tuvok’s brain is resiliant enough to be rewiring itself at a prodigious rate. But Tuvok can’t talk yet and might not have a sense of who he is. Neelix is set on taking Tuvok on a tour of the ship to kick-start the old noggin. The tour isn’t doing much for the rest of crew morale, but Tuvok does seem to have some familiarity with the system functions, just enough to almost fire some torpedoes.

The search for the B’neth seems to have worked, and they find a ship tailing them right away. Correction, a fleet. Being detected has not endeared Voyager to the fleet, and it scatters. Janeway orders pursuit of the lead vessel. It’s unclear which one is the lead, and they can’t get a better way to track the B’neth before they move out of range. Meanwhile, Tuvok has been cowering in his quarters, but after the attack is over, Tuvok manages a few words and some basic recognition of Neelix.

Nuroc asks to interrogate Tuvok, and Janeway tries to go slowly but Nuroc has a hard time containing his excitement. They flash him back to the moment of the attack, which is of course traumatic. He balks, recovery is going to take some time. Some other crew area also into helping him recover, although in Harry’s case it might be because he thinks he’ll be able to beat brain-dead Tuvok at kal-toh. He’s right  Tuvok does so badly that he breaks the game. Perhaps more worryingly, his loss has made him emotional, and when you consider the heightened physical strength of a Vulcan, their ‘intense emotions’ and a limited comprehension of effect and consequence, Tuvok is a very real danger to everyone on the ship right now.

Tuvok has been reading up on his personnel file. Speech is coming easier to him now, as is existential horror – he can feel poignant about not being the person he used to be – it’s all very Flowers for Algernon, until Tuvok becomes violent as expected. Neelix goes away to mope, and finds Seven in the mess hall, contemplating the riddle of the B’neth. He gives her his own riddle, about Tuvok’s lost logic. Seven’s answer is that when she left the collective she wasn’t restored to her previous state, she was built into something new. Could this be the start of a whole new character direction for Tuvok?

When Neelix goes to Tuvok, he’s making a wax flower with his prayer candles. There are apologies all around. Neelix explains Old Tuvok’s… social deficiencies. Going in the new direction, Tuvok has shown himself to be something of a kitchen prodigy, but only for desserts. Everyone loves them, but it’s also important to know what happened on the Flyer, and remembering is not fun. However, he is able to draw the cloaking frequency on the cake he was making. Apparently with enough precision to be useful. I am impressed with the hand-eye-coordination of a half-braindead Vulcan.

With that analysis, Voyager  is able to go hunting for the right frequency, and track down their prey. The large signal is coming from a huge cloaked space station. They don’t seem interested in talking, until Janeway threatens to out their position and how to find them. That gets their attention. Janeway offers tactical data on other species in exchange for their weapon specs, but the B’nath are unwilling to compromise when Nuroc, who has been tracking them down for years, is on board. For a second it looks like Janeway seriously considers turning on Nuroc, even though this is by no means an indicator that he’s betrayed them. Indeed, Nuroc offers to give the B’nath the tech he used to decloak them so they can adapt to it. With that carrot, and Janeway’s stick looming overhead, they agree.

After these negotiations, Tuvok is chilling with some jazz when Neelix comes to him with the good news – Tuvok can be cured. Of course, this Tuvok probably doesn’t want to be cured – he liked having fun. Note that this is going to be the second time that some more self-actualized version of Tuvok has been killed for the utility of the ship. Neelix tries to convince him that it won’t be that bad, but he doesn’t lie, and nobody has to actually be ordered to execute a personality.

Next time we see Tuvok he is fully restored and reading intensely in the Mess Hall. He’s mostly back to his old self, but he has chosen to let slip a new appreciation for wordplay.

 

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