Star Trek: Voyager feature  
Tim Russ Learning Curve     A powerful moment in Meld
selected from TV Zone #118
Voyager's stolid Vulcan talks about the show's evolution, as well as his work outside the Delta Quadrant.

What do you do if you are a Vulcan stranded 35,000 light years from home and living and working aboard a starship with sometimes highly emotional and not always logical humanoids? You adapt, of course, which is exactly what Star Trek: Voyager's Lieutenant Commander Tuvok has done over the past five years. Although he still relies on his logic, Tuvok has discovered that Human feelings also have value and should not be dismissed so easily. His road to understanding has had some illogical pitfalls but these have helped make the character far more interesting for Tim Russ to portray.

"As an actor, one of the difficulties that comes from working on a long-running series is that you're playing the same role every week for 10 months out of the year," says Russ. "You're on the same sets in the same space and, even though the words change, the dialogue starts to sound the same after a while. It can be tough on a daily basis and, I think, perhaps more for myself than some of the other Voyager actors because Tuvok has a far narrower emotional band. The writers can't give me a scene in which Tuvok gets really upset because it's not in his nature, so it's a challenge to keep my performance fresh on a year-to-year basis.

"Fortunately, what's been a blessing for me in playing Tuvok is that he's been compelled to come to terms with and understand the way Human Beings behave. By doing so, he is exploring, realizing and learning more about who he is as a person and this allows me every so often to introduce the audience to a different side of him.

"We did an episode in the fifth season called Gravity which is a major eye-opener in terms of Tuvok's past and how he experienced love for a woman when he was a young man," continues the actor. "It shows him questioning his emotions and learning how to control them and how this affects his present-day relationship with a female alien named Noss. The story also teams Tuvok up with Tom Paris [Robert Duncan McNeill] and viewers get to see more of the friendship that's developing between them.

At the start of Voyager's fourth year, Tuvok lost a friend and protégé when Kes's (Jennifer Lien) burgeoning mental abilities forced her to leave the ship so that she could evolve into a higher form of life. The crew quickly gained a replacement in the shapely Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), a Borg drone who, with Janeway's guidance, is slowly being assimilated back into human society. Her arrival initially generated some tension on Voyager as not everyone was pleased about having a Borg onboard. In real life, the addition of the character caused a bit of concern on the Voyager set.

"The network generated a tremendous amount of promotion surrounding Seven's coming onto the show," explains Russ. "Subsequently, the writers were pressured to write stories favouring the character so that Seven was prominent in several episodes during the past two seasons.

"If there was any increase in viewership because of all this publicity then obviously that's positive for us. However, in their efforts to promote Seven they kind of forgot about the rest of the characters, including the captain. What they ended up doing a lot of times was pairing Janeway with Seven to make sure she was involved in the story. So for a while the ensemble element of the series suffered.

"The only other concern I had is that Seven is very similar to Tuvok," he adds. "They are both somewhat dry and understated, logical and technical and, for the most part, unemotional. So we have two very similar characters running around in the same group and that, to me, can be a problem. Seven was human to begin with and is supposed to be evolving and delving into various aspects of becoming human, which really isn't on my character's agenda. However, until all these human qualities begin to emerge she and Tuvok are basically marching to the same beat and whatever he does isn't all that unique in contrast to the other characters. I've expressed my concerns to the writers but, as always, there are two sides to every issue so it's important to be able to give and take."

Steven Eramo
Have you seen our Voyager coverage in these recent issues of TV Zone?
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Martin Rayner (Doctor Chaotica) interview
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Kate Mulgrew (Janeway) interview
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Robert Picardo (the Doctor) interview
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100th episode celebration
TV Zone #108
Season 4 guide
TV Zone #104
Please note: links are to details of each issue. Features are not necessarily on-line

Get TV Zone #118 for the full interview

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