32 – Meld

Grade: B+

Meld (1996) on IMDb


A former Maquis officer, Lon Suder, has killed a Starfleet crewman in engineering. Tuvok investigates the crime, but can’t seem to understand why Suder committed it. Trying to find a true motive, Tuvok performs a mind meld on Suder and experiences disastrous effects.


I didn’t remember how good this episode really was until I re-watched it years later. Though I think there are some definite weaknesses in the script and in the acting, the story itself is very good. Tim Russ is probably the best actor of the Voyager regulars, but in this particular episode, Brad Dourif (the actor who played Lon Suder) was outstanding. He puts in the best performance that I’ve seen so far in this entire series. It’s a shame that the best acting performances in this series are generally from guest stars. It’s also a shame that this character never showed up before this episode.

The idea of capital punishment has been explored in Star Trek before, but I think this episode deals with it much more expertly than previous episodes did. I don’t think the writing on Voyager will ever be as deep or multi-faceted as Meld was. This is one episode that frequently makes you think, and to my recollection, this hasn’t happened very often on Voyager. Some of them are thought-provoking, but not to the same degree as this one.

The character moments in this episode are some of the best in the entire series. Suder, Tuvok and the Doctor all stayed very true to their characters, and they were developed very well. There’s one scene in which Neelix is particularly annoying – much more so than I’ve ever seen him. At the end of the scene we see why this is the case. Tuvok has been running a Holodeck program and he presumably made Neelix as annoying as he possibly could have.

But I do think there were some weaknesses in this episode, and in fact, some of them were pretty serious.

First of all, the sub-plot involving Tom Paris was totally unnecessary and distracting. It appears he is running a gambling ring on the Holodeck. Then later, Chakotay abruptly interrupts the activities and puts Paris “on report.” The scene is not acted particularly well, nor is it very convincing. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the rest of the story, which is very dark and serious. So this scene is a huge distraction. At first, I was tempted to think that these scenes were just added to pad the running time of the episode, but it turns out that this is part of a story arc that will be referred to later in this season. I really do want to give the director (and writers) the benefit of the doubt, but honestly, I think this sub-plot was not done well at all. It needed to be handled much more expertly in order to not detract from the main storyline.

Second, something else that really bothered me is how the Doctor handled Tuvok’s issues with controlling his violent tendencies. He basically plugs Tuvok into the scanner in Sickbay and turns off his inhibitions so that he can learn to control his anger. Maybe that makes sense in some kind of weird way, but it’s just bizarre. If the Doctor can control Tuvok’s mind by pushing some buttons on a computer terminal, why couldn’t they do the same thing to Suder and “cure” him of his mental disorders? It doesn’t make any sense to me that a computer can control someone’s feelings, actions, or inhibitions. They really should have left this out of it entirely, or they should have helped Tuvok in a more realistic way.

Third, and speaking of Tuvok, I don’t like the way his character was treated in this episode. Being a Vulcan, he has to remain very disciplined to control his emotions. We know from many previous Star Trek episodes that the Vulcans have a very violent past, and that only when they committed themselves to logic were they able to eliminate violence from their society. So far so good. The problem comes from the fact that Tuvok obviously can’t understand Suder’s motive in committing the crime. It’s as if Tuvok thinks everyone always acts logically and that there’s a logical explanation for every action that takes place. Is Tuvok really that stupid? Maybe. But what was most disturbing is when Tuvok says that he has studied violence for over 100 years. To me, that was unbelievable. I know Vulcans don’t lie (or they’re not supposed to). But how could he possibly say that he has studied violence for 100 years and yet he has no understanding of how a serial killer’s mind works? This is inexcusable. This script does not make sense at all. Well, I could go on and on, but I believe I have made my point on this issue.

Fourth, it is also annoying to me that every so often, they add yet another Maquis crewman to the ship. OK, so I don’t mean that they literally add a character. But I wonder how large Chakotay’s ship had to be in order to fit 20+ crewmen. It didn’t seem very big in the pilot episode. In fact, it looked like it was about the size of 3 or 4 shuttles, which really only have enough room for a pilot and a co-pilot plus a couple of passengers hanging around inside. His ship couldn’t possibly have enough room for crew quarters for 20+ people. Oh well. This is just a minor complaint, I suppose, but it’s still annoying.

Finally, one last thing that bothered me was the lack of quality for everything except the main storyline. When this episode focused on the main issues (Suder, Tuvok, capital punishment, motives for crime, etc.) it was very good. But when this episode showed anything else, it was very bland. If they had left out the bad parts, I probably would have given this an A-.

Of Note

Brannon Braga was very pleased with this episode, and he said “it didn’t get any better than this.” What’s disturbing is how many minor details he missed. Yes, overall, this is one of their best episodes. But there are still a lot of details that could have been better.

I couldn’t help but think of Braga when Neelix said that having people run around naked on Voyager would help morale. Braga seems to think that having actors run around less than fully clothed is what will keep people watching this series.