For all the years Voyager has been in the Delta Quadrant, Tuvok has been suspicious of a Maquis revolt. In Worst Case Scenario it was Tuvok who even started a holographic simulation of what might happen if the Maquis attempted to take over Voyager. As the paranoid and borderline fascist security officer Tuvok has acted to protect Voyager from the Maquis threat and now ironically enough it turns out that the Maquis threat comes from Tuvok himself. This is an interesting notion and unfortunately it’s about the only interesting notion in the whole episode.
In part this is because the subject matter just isn’t all that gripping. Voyager’s premise of Maquis working together with Starfleet was a basic
error because while the Maquis were relevant in the Alpha Quadrant where their politics vis a vis the Federation’s peacemaking with Cardassia meant something, in the Delta Quadrant they’re just guys who like to wear leather under their combadges. Without the Bajorans, Cardassians and the DMZ around, any episode involving the Maquis has a distant, remote feel to it. Worse yet, Repression feels like it should have been a first or second season episode, or as if it were written by someone whose impressions of Voyager are fixed from around those seasons. Its entire notion of Maquis paranoia and tension which might have served to smooth out a Maquis integration storyline years ago seems fairly retrograde by the seventh season. Finally, Repression makes the key, stunning mistake of being a detective story where the real culprit is out of reach, out of touch and out of communications range leaving the episode a story without any accessible villains and making it a generally uninvolving display.
From a charming beginning featuring Paris and Torres trying to watch 3D movies on the holodeck to the early investigation, Repression manages to generate a certain paranoid resonance by drawing out the mystery so that it actually seems intriguing. Voyager has never had a really good detective story, despite several lackluster attempts, and for the first twenty minutes Repression seems almost ready to provide one. The Maquis in the Delta Quadrant may not be the most compelling subject matter but the notion of buried tensions on board Voyager or some deep dark secrets in the Maquis past had plenty of potential for a good story. However once Repression begins to veer away from the actual mystery and towards yet another “Tuvok InnerConflict Story(TM)”, it becomes doomed to feature scenes of Tuvok desperately scrabbling at his face as if he is trying to dig his brain out with his fingernails. Twenty minutes of Tim Russ staggering about in a frenzy, twitching his face as if there are ants under his skin and wandering around with a glazed psychotic expression might be entertaining at a Halloween party but closeup shots of Tuvok’s frenzied expression don’t make good dinner entertainment and contrary to what Russ and the director may have thought, they make really poor drama.
In Star Trek, SpockData characters such as Spock, Data, Worf or Odo have been unique, intriguing but potentially dangerous. They were marked by their restraint contrasted with inner personal conflicts. They were also marked by a high standard of acting. Voyager on the theory that more is [more], has 3 SpockData characters on board and also has Tim Russ; and where Nimoy, Spiner or Auberjonois might have chosen restraint or dignity, Tim Russ chooses to act like a raving psycho for 15 minutes. Where a restrained performance from Russ might have helped redeem at least a portion of the episode, instead the suspense in Repression hinges on just when Tuvok will stop acting crazy and put an end to the whole mess.
While many of the early SpockData episodes that emphasized the potential of SpockData characters to go a little loony without being
responsible for their actions were gripping and original, since then there seems to have been hundreds of episodes involving SpockData characters going nuts. ALL THREE of the last three TNG movies have featured a plot in which Data goes off his rocker in a way that makes him threatening or useless to the crew. In Generations, Data’s emotion chip prevents him from stopping Soran thereby allowing the kidnapping of Geordi and all the resulting events. In First Contact Data betraying the crew or not was the climax of the movie. In Insurrection it was the premise. We’ve had more than a few episodes in which the EMH went haywire and threatened Voyager. And now we have Repression, which rather than choosing to at least explore the Maquis or tensions on Voyager, instead hinges the plot on Tuvok going batty. Where TNG’s Manchurian Conspiracy pastiche had the sense to focus the plot not on Geordi overcoming himself, but the crew stopping him in time, Repression expects us to focus on what’s going on behind Tuvok’s face instead.
This worked halfway well with one of Voyager’s top actors, Robert Picardo in Warhead, but even there the onus was on the moral debate between him and Kim and the notion of Kim’s command abilities. Repression has nothing as tangible to pin Tuvok’s transition onto except Janeway tossing out meaningless cliches (and Mulgrew is Voyager’s worst actor). Are we really supposed to believe that the brainwashing that overcame the power of a Vulcan mind and of a Starfleet officer and forced him to commit numerous crimes and rebel against the Federation was completely snapped just by Janeway telling him that he’s in control of his own actions.
Admittedly the notion of using a Vulcan as a Manchurian Conspiracy brainwashing generator is interesting and Voyager has been teasing us with a Maquis revolt for quite some time, only to deliver one now in the seventh season. But ultimately characters who do things while brainwashed aren’t particularly interesting. They’re just robots who stride around and aren’t responsible for their actions and for the consequences of their actions. The Maquis rebellion isn’t remotely interesting because Chakotay and Torres aren’t themselves and aren’t responsible for what they’re doing. A real Maquis rebellion early on in Voyager’s history at the end of which Starfleet and Maquis would have been forced to realize that they need each other and must continue being allies for a common goal might have been interesting, but what Repression has to offer is silly.
On the plausibility front, are we really supposed to buy less than a dozen people taking over Voyager and subduing its crew… and two people then subduing them and taking it back all in a very short time. Janeway ignores Tuvok’s call to Chakotay even though she knows that Tuvok has been mind controlled into mind melding with them and that those crew have now seemingly recovered and are back on duty. Without so much as a struggle Janeway allows her ship to be taken over, herself to be imprisoned in the brig and nearly killed.
All said, the only good points of this episode are a demonstration of what Voyager might have been like commanded by Maquis and a competent Captain and the Maquis plan to dump the Starfleet personnel on a world to start their own colony.
Wonder what they would have called it.