Category Archives: Television


Star Trek Voyager: Riddles

I was a Star Trek Voyager watcher during the ’90s. Back then I had a modest CRT television that might have weighed nearly a hundred pounds. At that time you had to be in front of your television at the appointed time on the appointed day of the week if you wanted to see your favorite show. Although I enjoyed Voyager in the ’90s, I never really became a fan until I could watch all the episodes in order online.

Last night, somewhat randomly, chose to watch Episode 6 of season 6, “Riddles.” I had forgotten about this one.

In this episode the stoic Vulcan, Mr. Tuvok, is assaulted by a cloaked intruder, inflicting brain damage, and is struck with traumatic amnesia. The jovial Talaxian, Mr. Neelix, takes on the challenge to help rehabilitate Mr. Tuvok.

Ethan Phillips as Mr. Neelix and Tim Russ as Mr. Tuvok

The Vulcan character represents the ultimate form of composure under pressure. As a matter of principal a Vulcan resolves conflict with well considered logic and never surrenders to the whims of emotion. But Star Trek fans know that the beneath the facade of stoicism is an undercurrent of emotion and passion, as potent as, or more than any human. The Vulcan characters are usually the favorite among the introvert fans, and we watch ever so carefully to see a glimmer of emotional reaction as they face the pressures of being a Starfleet Officer.

When Mr. Tuvok’s memory is wiped out he becomes a clean slate. Suddenly wiped away are all the years of accomplished experience as a Starfleet science officer, and all the years of focused study and meditation in the disciplines of Vulcan logic. Tuvok becomes like a child, vulnerable, afraid, and curious.

Mr. Neelix, compelled by is unquenchable sense of compassion and a long standing sense of admiration for his Vulcan colleague, sets to the task of becoming a rehabilitation coach. But he finds the challenges of trying to help Mr. Tuvok restore himself to his former being are fraught with disappointment.

This is a story about identity, friendship, respect, and hope.

If you don’t remember watching this episode in the ’90s, or again in the ’00s, then I recommend you take another look. Check it out.


I skimmed the trailer and made sure I got my watching partner’s thumbs up. There were elements of some supernatural, and some elements of American racism. I was kind of expecting a horror suspense flick. But I wasn’t sure, really.

Allison Pill as Elizabeth “Betty” Wendell and Deborah Ayorinde as Livia “Lucky” Emory

After a few episodes it was clear that I was watching something unlike anything else. There have been many productions that tell the story of racism in America. But this is done in a truly new way. The supernatural elements, that make the trailer seem like it might be a horror flick, are actually used in a very unusual way. The ghosts, and the elements that haunt the characters, are the specters of PTSD presented to the viewer in ways that deliver the raw emotions they way they should be experienced. This unique style and aesthetic are very effective in bringing these stories to life in a new way.

I am honestly blown away.

The performance that Allison Pill delivers as the evil cliche of a suburban white housewife Betty, is chilling. Given how toxic this character is, I imagine an actress might hesitate to take this role. But she plays this character with true gusto, in a way that is authentic and credible. Bravo Allison.

Deborah Ayorinde is no less courageous in her portrayal of “Lucky” Emory. This character is deeply traumatized in a brutal racist attack, and is haunted from then on by visions that are difficult to differentiate from what is real. Hey, go to California where everything is better! However, this story illustrates that the things that haunt you will inhabit you, wherever you are.

I don’t just recommend this series. I urge you to check “Them” out. This series is excellent.

Where No Man has Gone Before

The most recent Star Trek Discovery series has been very entertaining, with a major aesthetic reboot of the pre-TOS era, and a dizzying blast of relentless fast paced action and non stop twists. I suppose it’s somewhat of a masterpiece of its kind. I liked it. But I can’t shake this nagging feeling, that for as much as it has added to the franchise, I have a sense that something is missing.

Today I thought I’d revisit a memorable episode of TOS to refresh my sense of the Trek that I knew as a kid.

This image of Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell, after the “ESPer” transformation begins to take ahold of him, is burned into my memory since the first time I saw it back in the early seventies. Mitchell has become a deeply ominous threat who sees you from afar with those eyes.

I remember this episode being thick with tension, and floating by at a dreamlike pace.

Watching with a fresh eye today, I notice many things about it that I don’t remember at all. For example, there was an awkward scene, near the beginning, where all of the department heads are standing in a group at the rear of the bridge to personally report the status of Engineering, Medical, Security, and the other departments. Long after making their verbal status reports they continued to stand there, in an awkward group at the rear of the bridge, as the story was playing out. It was also weird that Spock was shouting out status updates as he monitored the instruments, as if he was shouting above the noise which wasn’t there. It also bothered me that this distress beacon that they beamed aboard contained data that only Spock could extract, audibly with an earpiece, which was apparently too garbled to be very informative. By the way, what kind of Captain orders a probe beamed aboard without first thoroughly verifying what it is and being completely certain that it is harmless?

A lot of things were awkward because this was only the third episode of the first season. Spock was a little weird because Leonard Nimoy was still finding his way with this role. Some of the sets and props were unfamiliar, as they would be refined in later seasons. I have to admit, to be honest, this production is not the surreal, mesmerizing, piece that I remember it to be.

Considering my lasting impression of TOS Trek, and using that as a point of reference for evaluating DISCO Trek, I think this sheds some light on the disconnect. What I might believe the old TOS tradition to be — ethereal and dreamlike — is not how the current generation of writers and producers view it. They may be looking at TOS with the “fresh eye” of the present, lacking the lasting childhood impression, and coming to the logical conclusion that there is very little to be salvaged!

Despite all of the shortcomings of TOS, I still find the all seeing eyes of Gary Mitchell to be very haunting. And it was a pleasure to rediscover it on Amazon Prime Video. The digitally remastered version is very impressive. The richness and clarity of the detail, and the improved CGI space scenes, almost make TOS new again. I’m looking forward to going back to rediscover some other old favorites like “The Man Trap”, “Charlie X”, and perhaps even all of the rest.

Watch the Remastered TOS on Amazon Prime Video.

See the episode summary on Memory Alpha.