In the twenty-second episode of the second season ofÂ Voyager, YO, THIS SHOW DIDÂ BENJAMIN BUTTONÂ YEARS BEFORE THAT MOVIE. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watchÂ Star Trek.Â
Oh my god, I LOVE THIS EPISODE SO MUCH. Because of the nature ofÂ Voyager, we never got much time spent on the lives of the crewÂ beforeÂ they got lost in the Delta Quadrant. Aside from glimpses of Paris and Janeway, I wouldnâ€™t say we got portraits of the other crew members. What we know is what weâ€™ve been told. So how can this show demonstrate the importance of their lives to us while keeping the crew so very far from home? Since we canâ€™t see Tuvok with his children, â€œInnocenceâ€ does a very beautiful thing: it gives us a snapshot of what the man is like as a father.
Itâ€™s also scary and unnerving and incredibly funny, but thereâ€™s no single thing about this episode I enjoyed more than seeing Tuvok act as a father figure to these three children. The episode acts as in insight to his style and Vulcan culture, which is hilariously contrasted with the ever-questioning children of the Drayans. (More on this, though, because that twist ending requires me to rethink my entire perception of â€œInnocence.â€) Sure, itâ€™s a trope many of us have seen outside of science fiction, but it was so wonderfully appropriate here. These three children â€“ Tressa, Elani, and Corin â€“ are consumed by fear, and they have every right to be. Theyâ€™d been dropped off on some â€œsacredâ€ planet where they were left to die. (Well, technically, thatâ€™s not how itâ€™s supposed to work, but, again, MORE ON THAT LATER.) A creature had already â€œtakenâ€ some of their friends, and it was only a matter of time before thisÂ thingÂ took them.
Thus, Tuvok is the perfect person for them to learn from. Drawing on his life as a Vulcan, he tries (and oh, does he try so very hard) to get these kids to see fear differently. But heâ€™s no condescending; heâ€™s genuine. Despite that he is, at any given moment, mere seconds away from an eye roll or an exasperated sigh, he controls his emotions and acts as someone they can actually look up to.
And then Elani and Corin are taken and this turns into a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT EPISODE. Babysitting With Tuvok becomes a tense mystery where I had to accept that it was entirely possible that these kids had died. THEIR CLOTHES WERE EMPTY AND IN THAT CAVE, NO THANK YOU. This informs the tense conflict that Janeway has with Alcia and the Drayans. Theyâ€™re standoff-ish and isolationist, which isnâ€™t a problem by itself. IÂ getÂ why their culture changed so dramatically over the years. Yet when Alcia is so determined to prevent Janeway from rescuing Tuvok, I started to get suspicious. What if they were hiding some awful ritual down on that moon? What if they knew that Tuvok would expose it all if he was allowed to return home?
LOOK, IT MADE SENSE AT THE TIME. I assumed the worst becauseâ€¦ well, Tressa was aÂ child. She was terrified of dying, and for someone that young to be so convinced theyâ€™re going to die is a sign that something is horribly, horribly wrong. Of course, I was operating on limited information becauseÂ ALL THE KIDS WERE ACTUAL OLD PEOPLE WHO BECAME INNOCENT AND YOUNGER AS THEY GOT OLDER.Â Now, there are a bunch of logistical questions I have becauseâ€¦ do the Drayans come out as fully-formed adults? Do they look old? Or do they live a normal life and then just de-age right at the end? (The latter part makes the most sense to me, and frankly, Iâ€™m probably going to ignore other interpretations to avoid the body horror implications of anything else.)
Ultimately, though, this entire episode is one massive miscommunication. Every assumed the worst of everyone else, though itâ€™s never made to seem like this was totally foolish. The Drayans had every reason to be strict with outsiders; Tressaâ€™s fear was justified, since her fear of death came at theÂ endÂ of a long life; and the evidence presented to Tuvok made him protective of Tressa. Instead, he gets to act as the last person to guide her into the next realm, to pass from life into death. That sort of guide was always intended for the ritual, but theyâ€™d died in the shuttle crash. In the end, Tuvok still gets to protect Tressa.
AND ITâ€™S SO BEAUTIFUL. Yâ€™all, I loved this episode. LETÂ VOYAGERÂ REMAIN WEIRD IF IT MEANS WE GET STORIES LIKE THIS.
The video for â€œInnocenceâ€ can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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