40 – Tuvix

Grade: C+

Tuvix (1996) on IMDb


Tuvok and Neelix are on an away mission together, harvesting some plant samples that they might be able to use as a potential food source. When they are ready to beam up, however, there is a transporter accident – prompted by a plant’s reproductive process. As a result, Tuvok and Neelix have become a single person who names himself Tuvix.


Star Trek has always been bold enough to ask some very serious questions about some rather controversial subjects. “Tuvix” is definitely among the most controversial episodes that Star Trek has ever produced. Many people recognize this as one of the best episodes because of how it deals with a rather serious issue. But on a more personal note, I absolutely can’t stand this episode. I even hate it more than “Threshold” or any of the worst episodes of Enterprise.

Who knows how many “Transporter Gone Wild” episodes that have plagued this franchise (Two Commander Rikers, Two Captain Kirks, etc.). This is Voyager’s version of the same story. Their transporter combined with a plant’s reproductive process (seriously?) to create a brand new person – someone who calls himself Tuvix since he is a merging of Tuvok and Neelix. In fact, in one scene Tuvix admits he pretty much considers them to be his parents. Yuck. Thanks for that mental image, Voyager.

Anyway, Tuvix is a new person who obviously didn’t exist before the episode started. Of course with this being Voyager, it’s extremely rare that something that happens in one episode will ever have any effect or even be referred to again in any future episode. So we know Tuvix won’t exist by next week – the only mystery is how they will get Tuvok and Neelix back.

Normally, we’d expect Captain Janeway should be inclined to protect this new life form. Tuvix starts to earn the trust of the crew, and he takes on the roles of tactical officer, security chief and head chef. He is extremely proficient at his jobs, and he gains the respect of everyone on the ship. The character is pretty interesting, really. He’s more talkative than Tuvok and less annoying than Neelix, and the actor playing the role is just outstanding. As crazy as the setup is, to see his portrayal of these two characters, you actually believe this could have happened. Tuvix is exactly what we would expect a combination of Tuvok and Neelix to be.

So we’ve just spent the last 25-30 minutes coming up with an entirely new character, and giving him friends and responsibilities on this ship. There is a budding friendship between him and pretty much everyone else. Chakotay confides to Janeway that Tuvix is becoming a good friend to him.

And this is exactly when the episode does a 180 and becomes something really disturbing. The Doctor finds a way to attach certain substances to specific DNA sequences so that they can separate Tuvok from Neelix and restore them both. Unfortunately for Tuvix, this solution means he will have to be killed. Voyager’s writers could have really made this something uplifting if Tuvix had willingly given up his life so that his two ‘parents’ could continue to live. Instead, they decided to introduce drama by making Tuvix unwilling to die and insisting to live.

So we are at an impasse. Janeway doesn’t want to order Tuvix to die, but she really wants him dead nonetheless. She wants him dead because the Doctor found some nonsensical way to separate them. Kes really wants Neelix back – she’s creeped out by this Tuvix character. After Tuvix pleads for his life with Janeway, he realizes she’s not going to change her mind. So he reaches out to Kes and asks her help, but when she talks to Janeway, she turns completely against him. She does a good job here sounding like she wants to do the “right thing”, but she doesn’t really want to give up Neelix.

So what does Janeway decide to do? She has made up her mind that she will order Tuvix to die. She approaches him on the Bridge and asks to speak with him privately, but he wisely says he thinks everyone should hear her decision. He wants everyone to know that he was killed unwillingly, and that this was what Janeway decided to do. So far, this episode is really heading in the wrong direction, in my opinion.

Then the episode really gets ugly. He pleads with his “friends” on the Bridge to find someone who will ally with him and argue for his life. He finds no support – not even from Chakotay, who just a few minutes before said he was his friend. With friends like this, who needs enemies? But truth be told, I don’t think it would matter one bit what anyone else on the Bridge had to say. Janeway decided to have him killed off because Tuvix is an annoying reminder of two people who no longer exist.

Earlier in the episode, she had even told Tuvix that both Tuvok and Neelix would actually be willing to die to allow someone else to live – as if she were telling Tuvix that he should do the same. But here’s the problem with her argument – and I wish Tuvix had mentioned this – Tuvok and Neelix already HAD given up their lives for Tuvix in the first place. So Tuvix could have turned her argument on its ear and said, “yes, Tuvok and Neelix would be willing to give up their lives for someone else, and in fact, they already have given up their lives for me.” But as I said before, it wouldn’t have mattered one bit. When Janeway makes up her mind, NOBODY can change it. She is the most stubborn starship captain that Star Trek has ever produced.

Here’s how it ends. Everyone turns against Tuvix – he receives no help from anyone, except the Doctor, who repeatedly shows more signs of ethical and humane behavior than any of the “real” characters on this ship. He is under oath to “do no harm.” Janeway is not subject to the Hippocratic Oath, but she is under the Starfleet oath of seeking out new life forms and new civilizations. Janeway pushes the transporter button which separates Tuvix back into Tuvok and Neelix, and everyone is supposed to be happy again.

These last few scenes are extremely hard for me to watch. I continue to this day to be completely disgusted by what I saw. Sometimes we need controversy in our entertainment to cause us to think about difficult issues in a new way. But this episode was so disturbing that it was not enjoyable in the least. Maybe this isn’t as disturbing to other people, but at least for me, this is one episode I will try very hard to forget.

I have to give this a mediocre grade. We see some outstanding character moments, excellent writing and perhaps the best acting this series has ever produced. But it is also the least enjoyable episode of Star Trek that I have ever seen. It’s no exaggeration for me to say that I never want to see this episode again. The most positive thing I can say about this episode is that this being Voyager, we’ll never have to deal with this incident ever again.

Of Note

Ethan Phillips, who plays Neelix, was one time asked if there could ever be a relationship between Kes and Tom Paris. After this episode, he was personally convinced that such a relationship could never happen, because of how much Kes loved Neelix. And yet somehow this all changes too.

Several episodes before, Lt Suder had been found guilty of killing another crewman, but Janeway decided to keep him locked up in the brig forever. At that time, and in this episode as well, it is brought up that the Federation does not have a death penalty. So Janeway doesn’t kill off Suder, who is a convicted murderer, but she kills off Tuvix whose only crime is that he came into existence because of a transporter accident.