So this is the episode wherein Crewman Suder (aka Luther Lee Boggs aka Brad Dourif) murders the crap out of some guy for no reason and Tuvok just can't wrap his Vulcan head around it so he goes and does an ill-advised mind meld with Suder and it's a whole bad scene. Suder's sociopathic, violent tendencies infect Tuvok's logical mind and suddenly Tuvok just doesn't feel like himself anymore. He knows what's going on yet he can't maintain control, can't ask for help, can't do anything much besides sit in his room and hope he can logic the darkness away.
I've always loved this episode. Brad Dourif (who plays a similarly disturbed killer in one of my very favorite X-Files episodes, "Beyond the Sea") is spot on. I love that we've always seen Betazoids who are sweet and kind and overtly open and empathic and now we get an individual with all the Betazoid capabilities and none of the empathy. He's Moriarty to Tuvok's Holmes and he brings a legitimately scary sense of darkness to a show that is typically fairly light. Tim Russ' performance is similarly great. It's basically Data playing Lore but I actually enjoy it more and find Russ' performance more nuanced than Spiner's. I'm always happy to re-watch this one but this time it was a little different. A little too timely for me, maybe.
About a year ago, I started to feel a subtle darkness creeping around the edges of my own thoughts. I was stressed out and rightly so and I chalked it up to that. Then, about six months ago, I started having nightmares. It was the same week every month. A week of nightmares. Bloody, gory, awful nightmares. It got to the point that I didn't want to go to sleep. Then it was little things. I was irrationally mad about stupid stuff. Irrationally crying about some little thing a friend might have said. I knew it was irrational, that I was upset for really no reason but I couldn't make it go away. Then someone close to me attempted suicide and it threw my whole world off balance. Granted, that's a crappy thing to deal with and it would be tough for anyone but I fell into a deep, obsessive depression for about a month. And then it just kept getting worse. My friends and family started to notice. "How is everything? You seem a little down lately." But I've conditioned them not to ask too many questions, not to be too clingy or to get too weird and up in my business. "I'm fine," I'd say, hoping that if I said it enough it might really be true.
You watch commercials where a woman is out playing catch with her kids or smelling flowers in a field or drinking tea on the sofa as a soft-voiced speaker glides through all the terrible side effects of the drug this commercial is inexplicably advertising. They say things like, 'May cause depression or suicidal thoughts..." And you think, "Who would take that? Why would you take that?" And you don't even realize that's exactly what you are doing. You are the woman on the sofa. That's how messed up your brain is. That you can't even recognize your chemistry has been altered beyond recognition. It's become impossible to gain any distance. You're trapped inside yourself and that's the last place you want to be.
Sometimes it takes someone who loves you saying, "What is going on? You aren't yourself!" before you realize what's happened, before you realize you've slipped so far down a rabbit hole you can't even see the light at the top anymore, before you realize that you really aren't yourself. That your brain has slowly been adjusted by a medicine you've been prescribed. That darkness has spread inside your head. And, that it's not your fault. That you aren't as broken as you were afraid you might be. That maybe you don't have to feel this way anymore.
I've always had a bad reaction to hormonal birth control--which I've been taking for another medical condition for over a year. Typically the reaction is obvious and comes fairly quickly. This time, the effects were more subtle and it took a long time for me to put it together. I had the physical symptoms of a bad reaction and I knew what was causing it but my brain was so messed up that I couldn't put it together with the depression and irrationality--the loss of myself. I was like Tuvok. My brain was infected and I wasn't ok and I just wanted to shut myself away and logic the problem into nothingness. But, in the end, that's not how Tuvok solved his problem. Tuvok needed Janeway's help. Kes' help. He needed The Doctor's help. By the end of the episode, he's on the shaky road to recovery. Suder's negativity has mostly been purged from his brain but he'll always be left with the knowledge of how easily and unknowingly he slipped into darkness. Still, he's getting better. As The Doctor says, "You're on your way back to being normal."