“Meld” – Season 2, Episode 16

What a great episode!  Murder on Voyager.  Wow.  I am only 16 episodes in and I can tell that this is not a show to shy away from challenging or potentially divisive issues.  The bulk of “Meld” focuses on Tuvok’s reactions to the murder and it’s perpetrator.  Motive eludes the Vulcan for most of the episode.  It was not until he became who he was trying to understand that he discovered that sometimes human violence is not founded upon a clear motive.  Sometimes a look is all it takes.

tuvokMy favorite theme in “Meld” is the discussion surrounding violence.  Tuvok, as a Vulcan, does not understand violence because he is able to suppress the emotion/action.  After the murder upon Voyager it is Tuvok’s responsibility to find the criminal.  When it becomes clear who the murderer was Tuvok want’s to understand his motive.  He goes so far as to employ the Vulcan mind meld.   After using this technique he not only comes to understand the murderer’s motive, he also inherits the violent tendencies of the murderer.  While Tuvok is no longer able to suppress his emotions or actions concerning violence the murderer now has the cool control of a Vulcan.

Tuvok soon discovers what is happening to him (there was a funny, yet troubling scene where he simulates killing Neelix in the holodeck).  To try and make sense of the situation he appeals to the murderer.  With steady Vulcan control the murderer says that violence cannot be controlled and that Tuvok even engaged in a violent act when he employed the mind meld.  It was “your will dissolving mine.”   What a fantastic turn of the tide.  As a law student we frequently have discussions in class that explore possible new crimes.  Maybe the murderer is right.  Using telepathic ability to merge your mind with that of another (even with consent) could be deemed as a violent invasion of property.   At the end of the episode we see Tuvok restored to his calm self.   This is, of course, after extreme bouts of rage, verbally abusing the captain and the doctor, and physical assaults.

Since “Meld” was so rich in complex themes I will list my other favorite topics.

1. Gambling.  Lt. Paris began a gambling outfit on Voyager.  Like most casino owners, Paris was reaping the benefits of being the handler.  Chakotay put an end to the operation very quickly.  It was a waste of the ships hard won resources, he said.  Though this may be true, I find it hard to believe that a ship so bent on personal freedom would not allow its crew to spend their “hard won rations” as they saw fit.  There was no similar problem on Battlestar Galactica as we saw the viper pilots gambling weekly for the first few seasons.  Interesting that Voyager does not allow this form of recreation.

2.  Tuvok suggest the captain consider the death penalty as an appropriate punishment for the murderer.  Janeway flat refuses.  What a powerful stance, and I think spot on for where the world is (or ought to be) heading.  The United States is currently the only “developed nation” that still uses the death penalty.  It isn’t too far a stretch to believe that the Federation would have a similar policy in the future.

3.  Tuvok used the holodeck to simulate killing Neelix.   I guess you have to assume that if you have a holodeck crew will use it in various ways.  A few episodes ago we saw Janeway participating in a holo-novel where she seemed to have a romantic relationship with one of the characters.  I plan on investigating this topic further, but it is an incredibly interesting concept.  If you have the technology to simulate anything how do you regulate it?  Do you regulate it at all?

4. I struggled a little bit with the writers intentions when the murderer said that he felt nothing after killling the victim.  No remorse.  Nothing at all.  I began to wonder how this was so very different from Tuvok suppressing all of his emotions.  Tuvok has said many times that he does not feel.  I think they were trying to make the viewer discern the clear difference between Tuvok and the murderer.  As far as I can tell the answer all boils down to control.  Tuvok does not feel emotions but he does not act.  The murderer does feel extreme emotion occasionally that causes him to act out violently.  It’s an interesting dichotomy.

5.  How are Vulcan’s different from robots or holograms?  I plan on exploring this topic further as my viewing progresses, but initially it is hard to tell.  Tuvok acts completely based on logic, so do computers.  Interesting.

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