In the nineteenth episode of the third season of Voyager, Neelix and Tuvok are forced to work together again under distressing circumstances. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
This was a solid episode, marked by two fantastic performances from Tim Russ and Ethan Phillips, but the story itself was pretty cool, too! LET US DISCUSS.
One thing I’ve enjoyed about watching Star Trek is getting to experience all of the intriguing science fiction ideas along the way. I am kind of blown away by the savage brilliance of the Etanian Order, and I can’t believe I’ve never seen anything like this before. Granted, I went into “Rise” and assumed from the opening scenes that this was yet another episode where the Federation helps a culture deal with a terrible natural occurrence. BUT THAT’S THE WHOLE TRICK, ISN’T IT? Everyone assumes the asteroids are just a freak moment in time, and instead? They’re intentional.
Look, in terms of dastardly invasion plots, I gotta say that the Etanian Order appears to have come up with the evilest one. They fake natural disasters, wait until the population dies off or evacuates (OR A HORRIBLE COMBINATION OF THE TWO), then swoop in and claim the land as their own. That is fucking evil, y’all. They murder and steal! As their thing. How can a people be so awful??? But you can see this kind of standard within Sklar, who poisoned Dr. Vatm and threw Tuvok off of the mag-lev ship. FROM VERY HIGH UP, I MIGHT ADD. (God, this whole episode was quietly powered by nightmare fuel.) They murder to get what they want, and they feel entitled by it.
“Rise” works just based on this story alone. I loved how well the end reveal of Sklar’s betrayal explains Dr. Vatm’s desperation. But let me be real: it is so much better because of the interpersonal conflict between Neelix and Tuvok.
The Odd Couple
I’m still of the mind that the Neelix/Kes split is fucking bizarre. That little interaction they had sick bay was so uncomfortable! It’s like they barely knew each other, as if Kes wasn’t a major character who had had a years-long relationship with him. What gives? Why are they taking this route? It doesn’t make sense to me! I suppose it wouldn’t feel as glaring if “Rise” weren’t entirely about Neelix’s relationship with someone else. As it stands, we have no idea how the break-up has affected him at all, and I kept expecting this episode to address it in some way.
That’s the only major flaw in this, though. Otherwise, it’s a thrilling look at Neelix’s relationship with Tuvok and why they’ve butted heads so much throughout the show. Initially, I thought this episode was just about Neelix proving himself to Tuvok, but there’s so much more depth than that. Instead, “Rise” posits that Tuvok is not as unemotional as he says he is. It’s a great premise, and then we get to watch it unfold, and EVERYTHING IS SO ENTERTAINING. Throughout the episode, Neelix really does try his hardest under stressful circumstances, even if he does do things that can be seen as annoying from Tuvok’s point of view. Like lying about his experience with mag-lev containers. Or taking time to comfort others!
But since we focus more on Neelix’s view than Tuvok’s, we get to see why the things he does here are beneficial. Specifically, his conversations with Lillias are not distracting or unnecessary, as Tuvok later comes to learn. Personal motivation – especially with a connection on an emotional level – can be very necessary in the field. On top of that, Neelix may have lied about his experience with these ships, but he did get it working. Without Neelix’s quick-thinking and improvisation, they most likely would have been stuck on the ground, and the Etanian Order would have succeeded in taking the planet from the Nevu.
All this comes to a head in an electrifying scene where Neelix finally confronts Tuvok about his condescension and sarcasm. It really helped that Lillias was there to validate Neelix, too; it’s not often that there’s an outside perspective on Tuvok’s behavior. Here, that was vital to getting him to examine his behavior. Because it’s true! Tuvok’s attitude belies how he feels about Neelix, and that sense of superiority washes over everything. Tuvok has been quick to mistrust Neelix and his instinct before, and he downright dismisses his emotional core. He does so with sarcasm lacing his words, too.
Does this mean that their relationship has fundamentally changed? Perhaps not; the final scene heavily implies that Tuvok can’t really be altered. But it’s a step in the right direction, at least in the sense that Tuvok has a better understanding of how emotion can be a positive attribute instead of an annoying one. “Rise” is quite fulfilling to me because I love getting to witness growth that’s incremental but still meaningful, and Voyager continues to give me a whole lot of it.
The video for “Rise” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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