Tuvok’s Moral Middle Ground

Tuvok was not without his forays into romance outside of the strict, sacred bond he held with his wife, T’Pel, in the Alpha Quadrant. True, there were manufactured instances of romance, such as in “Body and Soul” (2000) when Tom Paris prescribed Tuvok time in the holodeck with a hologram of his wife in order to treat his symptoms of pon farr. Just as Ben Sisko agreed to Solok’s terms of “manufactured triumph” (“Take Me Out to the Holosuite,” 1998), so, too, did Tuvok agree to manufactured romance. However, this was not only for the purposes of attenuating the symptoms of pon farr, but also out of Tuvok’s dire sense of duty and to return to helping the crew.  

In “Gravity” (1999) it becomes clearer how Tuvok lives with his emotions just under the surface of his firm constitution. Tuvok and Tom Paris crash their shuttle onto a desert planet where they encounter, and come to live with, Noss. Feelings develop between Tuvok and Noss, though when confronted by Paris over the obvious connection between them, Tuvok states that he admires her for her adroit ability to survive.  

TUVOK: She has been alone for many years. She appreciates our company. 
PARIS: No. I mean she likes you. 
TUVOK: What are you implying? 
PARIS: Oh, come on, Tuvok. You may be cold, but you’re not blind. 
TUVOK: Need I remind you that I am married. 
PARIS: Your wife is fifty thousand light years away, in a different layer of space! The chances of you ever seeing her again are practically nonexistent. 
TUVOK: Excuse me. 


PARIS: Listen. What I said in there, about your wife. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. 
TUVOK: I have no feelings for you to hurt. 
PARIS: I think you do. You work hard to bury them, but they’re there. And even if they’re not, this is home now. You might as well accept it and try to find as much happiness as you can. Listen, you have a chance to make a decent life for yourself here. 
TUVOK: There is still a possibility that Voyager will rescue us. You may see Lieutenant Torres again. 
PARIS: If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you were trying to cheer me up, Tuvok. 
TUVOK: Is there a point to your pessimism? 
PARIS: It’s not pessimism, it’s practicality. You of all people should understand that. Look, I’ve never met your wife but if she’s half a logical as you are, I bet you she’d tell you the same thing. 
TUVOK: Your attempt to play matchmaker is misguided. I am not experiencing Pon farr. 
PARIS: What difference does it make? You obviously care about Noss. If you won’t admit it to me, at least admit it to yourself. 
TUVOK: I respect her ability to survive. 
PARIS: It’s more than that. I’ve seen the way you look at her. 
TUVOK: What way is that? 
PARIS: Like someone who wishes he wasn’t Vulcan. 

Tuvok faces his emotions for Noss in the end and quite exactingly. After the three are rescued from the planet and Noss is to be transported to her home planet, Tuvok shares an intimate mind meld with Noss that is clearly meant to convey his emotional predisposition. Noss’s only response is, “I understand.” Here, only after reaching the safety and comfort of being back aboard Voyager does Tuvok come clean, as it were, and allow himself to be vulnerable. Perhaps in the state of living under the duress of fighting for their survival, unlike Paris, Tuvok could not face the added encumbrance of emotional displacement. What is important is to keep in mind that, even still, those feelings were present during their time on the surface and if Tuvok had not flirted with the surfacing of those emotions, there would be no need for such an intimate goodbye.  

This is all to say that Tuvok was not innocent. He played an equal role. His willful participation in what he claims to be far-distant from is also seen in “Alter Ego” (1997). Ensign Harry Kim comes to Tuvok in confidence for his assistance in overcoming emotions he has developed for a hologram. At first, Tuvok masterfully explicates the smallest dimensions of this infatuation in a way that Harry does not easily agree with, but is able to understand. By all accounts Tuvok’s counsel was helping. Harry had found what at first he could not find, the will to be able to move on. This will was still nascent, but present, despite Harry’s inability to adhere to it with discipline.  

Perhaps Harry would have been able to overcome his feelings for a hologram with clarity and potential for growth had not Tuvok clearly betrayed his trust. Tuvok befriended the hologram, Marayna, who by this point had clearly altered her programming to fixate on him. Again, just as with Noss, Tuvok pretended not to notice Marayna taking interest in his interests. He, in fact, encourages it by repeatedly visiting the holodeck and telling Marayna she is not like anyone he has ever met before. It is only after it becomes clear that Marayna is not just a hologram, but being programmed and manipulated by an alien in a cloaked station inside the inversion nebula, that Tuvok restrains himself. Tuvok is able to beam onto the station and confront the alien who was motivated by loneliness to attempt to force Tuvok to stay with her. Now, seeing that this alien is not so visually appealing according to the social constructs of beauty, Tuvok treats her like an object of pity. Yes, in doing so the crisis is averted, but one wonders if Tuvok may have been motivated to stay on the station with her or coerce her into joining him on Voyager had she looked different.  

Tuvok’s on-the-surface-only romances are a form of manipulation. I have previously questioned Tuvok’s ability to be manipulative in explicating the holo-mutiny in “Worst Case Scenario,” (1997) stating, additionally, what of Tuvok in the manifestation of this crime? It was his imagination that brought this mutiny-play to life. Just as he was able to place himself among the Maquis and convincingly lie his way into a position of trust in “Caretaker” (1995), he is also able to manipulate his Vulcan born logic to performatively imagine a hostile takeover of the ship. Tuvok is not innocent. His intentions may be functional, but his abilities are transformative in the sense that from a Freudian perspective Tuvok is a carrier of manipulative traits and abilities. 

What is more is that once Captain Janeway rejected Tuvok’s proposal to permanently delete the holodeck program taking the crew’s attention, Tuvok inserted himself into being an orchestrator of authoring its conclusion with Tom Paris. In an argument with Paris, Tuvok asserts his authority over the matter until Paris is capitulates as Tuvok’s security code is required to reopen the parameters file to continue writing the program. Again, Tuvok’s inherent need to control the situation is evident in his behavior rather than his self-identifying language. This shows Tuvok relies on a host of manipulative techniques in matters of love, interpersonal direction, and tactical scenarios. Another example was his willingness to share the seeds of his Vulcan aggression with Guill in “Random Thoughts” (1997) in an effort to manipulate his way into the underground thought-sharing black market on the Mari homeworld as part of his investigation.  

Unlike the holodeck simulation from “Worst Case Scenario,” Tuvok is central to an actual mutiny in “Repression” (2000). Under the seeded influence of Bajoran radical, Teero Anaydis, Tuvok unconsciously releases a conditioned, manipulated coercion into the minds of the former Maquis. He does this violently, one crew member at a time. Though Tuvok overcomes the repressed conditioning, it can be argued some part of him was willing to participate. This is not to engage in blaming the victim. It is clear what Teero Anaydis did to them was beyond cruel and there was a reason Teero was not accepted by the Marquis. However, from the perspective of being a Vulcan who puts great emphasis on purging emotions and unwanted thoughts, the strain of a manipulative personality was present that could carry out the brainwashing of the former Marquis Voyager crew. It can also be added that when Tuvok joined the now assembled Marquis crew he had already overcome Teero’s conditioning. He was playing along and manipulating the situation to his advantage as the skillful tactician he is. 

All these behaviors result in observations made by the viewer. Tuvok has many noble attributes and he strives to serve the best interests of the ship. However, there are elements grafted into his character that seek to align his alien-ness with an Other. The viewer is ultimately to be dismissive of Tuvok despite his willingness to make sacrifices. Sacrifices such as in “Muse” (2000) when he went without sleep for ten days in effort to recover Harry Kim and B’Elanna.  

NEELIX: Maybe I’ve miscounted but, I don’t think you’ve slept in ten days? 
TUVOK: Your count is accurate. 
NEELIX: Don’t you think you should go to bed? 
TUVOK: As a Vulcan, I can function without sleep for more than two weeks. 
NEELIX: But there’s a point of diminishing returns, when your mind starts to play tricks on you. 
TUVOK: My mind, Mister Neelix, does not play tricks. 

Many of the characters in Voyager are demonstrated to not be without their faults; Seven of Nine, B’Elanna, The Doctor and Tom Paris, for example. However, special emphasis is placed on Tuvok as a Vulcan. To return to “Take Me Out to the Holosuite,” Solok is equally portrayed as lacking insight into his own psychological state. That alien-ness is othered for the elevation of humanness is unfortunate and dismissive of the cosmic diversity Starfleet so claims to embrace. 

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