Tuvok – The Heart of the Voyager Crew
Tuvok was the first Vulcan to feature regularly in a Star Trek show since Spock in The Original Series. What made Spock so fascinating was the eternal dichotomy of his Vulcan/Human lineage. Tuvok, on the other hand, was 100% Vulcan. This initially seemed to suggest that there might seldom be cause for conflict, drama, or development for the character. Tuvok – fantastically portrayed by Tim Russ – not only defies those expectations but, in many ways, surpasses them. He takes the role of a Vulcan down a path that not even the Enterprise’s famous science officer could walk.
We first meet Tuvok in the Star Trek: Voyager premiere “Caretaker”. Working as an agent of the Maquis, he is not what he initially appears to be. He has been asked to infiltrate the rebel group by his old friend, Captain Kathryn Janeway. It’s the attempt to retrieve Tuvok from the Val Jean that spurs Janeway to take Voyager into the Badlands, thus stranding them in the Delta Quadrant for the next seven years.
By far the oldest of Voyager’s main characters, Tuvok was – and somewhat still is – a mystery. Yet over the years, we’ve caught glimpses into his layered persona.
“I will not rest until I see you smile.” – Neelix
“Then you will not rest.” – Tuvok
Our first such glimpse comes in the Season 2 episode “Meld”. While investigating a murder, Tuvok melds with Betazoid serial killer Lon Suder, causing violent urges to be transferred to Tuvok.
To limit the danger to Voyager’s crew, Tuvok confines himself to his quarters. However, he then breaks out and tracks down Suder, to purge himself of his destructive impulses. Suder, more rational since the meld, convinces Tuvok not to kill him and instead attempts another mind meld, though Tuvok falls unconscious.
When Tuvok awakes, The Doctor informs him that his Vulcan emotion-suppression had already begun to kick in when he confronted Suder. This shows that, even under extreme pressure, the tactical officer can maintain self-control.
“My attachment to my children cannot be described as an emotion. They are a part of my identity, and I am… incomplete without them.” – Tuvok
In the same season’s “Innocence”, a shuttlecraft Tuvok is aboard crashes on a moon, killing his crewmate Ensign Bennet. Tuvok then discovers three children: Tressa, Corin and Elani, who also claim to have crash-landed there.
The children fear a savage mythical beast – the morrok. Tuvok sings them to sleep with his youngest son’s favourite lullaby, “Falor’s Journey”.
The following morning, Tressa finds the other two children gone. Searching for them, Tuvok considers that the morrok might be real and vows to protect Tressa from the same fate.
The “children” are the natural result of their species’ aging process. Tressa is really ninety-six years old! She accepts her fate, commenting that Tuvok reminds her of her grandson. In turn, Tuvok stays with Tressa until the very end. The “children,” now deceased, have clearly affected Tuvok, not only reminding him of his own children but also inspiring him to protect his new-found family.
“As a Starfleet officer, it is my duty to formally protest.” – Tuvok
At the beginning of the third season episode “Flashback”, Tuvok experiences a vision of being at the edge of a cliff while attempting to save a young girl. He fails and sees the girl plunge to her death.
The Doctor posits that the image could be a repressed memory. Attempting to ascertain its source, Tuvok mind-melds with Captain Janeway. They aren’t transported to the cliff but instead find themselves unexpectedly amid the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It turns out Tuvok served aboard the USS Excelsior, under Sulu’s command.
Tuvok remembers standing over the body of the recently deceased Lieutenant Commander Dimitri Valtane. It’s not a repressed memory that’s been plaguing Tuvok but a virus. To bypass a host’s immune system, the virus embeds itself within a false memory. Valtane, while dying, had passed it to Tuvok. The Doctor kills the virus and Tuvok makes a full recovery.
By establishing his service aboard the Excelsior, “Flashback” reveals a hitherto unexplored history of our Vulcan, revealing him to be a party to events we previously believed ourselves to be familiar with.
“Sit down, Tuvok.” – the Vulcan master
We learn more about Tuvok’s history in the episode “Gravity”. For the first time, we see him as a youth, under the tutelage of a Vulcan master. After becoming romantically attracted to Jara (the daughter of a Terrelian diplomat), the young Vulcan struggles to control his emotions.
Those earlier life lessons come into play when he, The Doctor and Tom Paris are stranded on a world where time moves faster on-world than off. They encounter Noss, who develops feelings for Tuvok. This makes him uncomfortable and reignites in him that same struggle with his emotion that he fought all those years ago.
It’s evident during the episode that Tuvok has begun to develop feelings for Noss. He can’t give into those, which leads to a degree of animosity between the pair. Only when they’ve escaped from the planet do Noss and Tuvok share a mind meld. By the end, it’s clear that, beneath his calm exterior, the Vulcan is often at odds with himself.
“You won’t call it ‘fun’… you’ll call it ‘deriving satisfaction.’ But it’s basically the same thing.” – Neelix
In the sixth season episode “Riddles” – while aboard the Delta Flyer with Neelix, returning from a diplomatic mission – Tuvok is struck down by a neuroleptic blast from a cloaked alien species: the Ba’Neth. He suffers severe mental impairment, and even upon awaking from a coma, he’s unable to remember a vital detail.
Until now, Tuvok found Neelix little more than an annoyance. However, this installment – as Neelix helps to rebuild Tuvok’s memory – allows for a more in-depth look at the relationship between them and just how alike they could be. We meanwhile see a different side to the Vulcan, uninhibited by logic. He’s even found to have a liking for jazz music and a flair for creating desserts!
Tuvok becomes increasingly frustrated at his inability to remember the necessary detail, until his subconscious comes into play. The information enables The Doctor to produce a treatment. Before long – and to Neelix’s dismay – Tuvok is back to his usual self. At the end of the episode, however, he makes a quip, suggesting that he hasn’t entirely lost his ability to transcend logic and engage in occasional humour.
Although we’ve seen glimpses of Tuvok’s future, it would be amazing if we could spend a little more time with the character. Ironically for a Vulcan, Tuvok became the heart of the Voyager crew.
DK Sellers has been a fan of Star Trek since his parents sat him in front of the TV, as a child, to watch the TOS episode “The Changeling”, little realising the consequences of their actions. He is a freelance writer, author and co-host of the Hit or Miss: Star Trek and Silver Screen podcasts.