Warning! The following contains spoilers for the Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4 premiere "Twovix." Read at your own risk!
Star Trek: Lower Decks opened up Season 4 in an unexpected way, but it's one that any and all fans of Star Trek: Voyager will likely appreciate. The Cerritos crew was tasked with helping the Voyager and its caretaker making the journey to be displayed for all to see. Of course, said journey wasn't that easy, and chaos ensued when multiple crew members were "Tuvix'd." It's a hilarious romp, but why did Lower Decks honor Voyager by riffing on its most controversial episode? Animator Barry Kelly had an answer for CinemaBlend.
I spoke to animator and director Barry Kelly ahead of the premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4, and was super curious to know how and why "Tuvix" became the focal point of its season premiere. The Voyager episode remains one of the franchise's most troubling "moral quandary" episodes, and Kelly said that its history definitely played a factor in the decision:
I think you kind of go on the head. It’s a classic Star Trek episode and you empathize with every angle of the episode. I think it’s a very Lower Decks thing to pick that particular conundrum and that Janeway decision. Of course, we would pick that. It’s such a weird, horrific, thing to happen to those two characters and such an animation-friendly concept. To merge two characters? It’s perfect for us. That made total sense.
For all its controversy, I must agree with Barry Kelly that "Tuvix" is a classic Star Trek episode of any franchise. Decades after its airing, there is still hot debate on whether or not Captain Janeway made the right decision in splitting Tuvix back into Neelix and Tuvok. I can also see how the episode lends itself perfectly to animation, and I loved the hybrid members of the Cerritos crew we saw throughout the episode.
"Tuvix" gets a big spotlight in the episode, but there's no denying Voyager the show is the star. Countless references to memorable episodes are made, including my personal favorite, which shines a light on Michael McKean's performance as "The Clown." Kelly explained that the episode helped them create a "love letter" to the series while letting viewers see where the characters stand on the controversial Tuvix decision:
We want it to feel like it’s our love letter to Voyager. Voyager is the guest star in that episode. It’s its own character. Every ship is its own character in every show, I think. Getting to do more Tuvix, justice for Tuvix. Even Freeman, getting to see her reaction to the logs of what happened and everyone is like, ‘Holy crap. She did that?!’ That’s one of the elements of Star Trek that I really like. That she had to make a decision and she had to live with that. One thing Mike [McMahan] wants is for the stakes to be real and I think that goes hand in hand with Star Trek.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is a comedy, but the stakes must be real. As such, Captain Freeman had to deal with the same issues Janeway did, even if she did it in a much more humorous tone. Ultimately, the crew was able to undo all the hybrids and get everyone back to their normal selves.
Barry Kelly conceded, of course, that the Lower Decks crew had an easier time making their Tuvix decision than Captain Janeway did on Voyager. The hybrids are the villains of the episode after fusing people against their will to create an uprising. The situation with Tuvix, who had spent months as an individual rather than a day fused, was far more nuanced. Additionally, as Kelly added, having the advanced tech to fix the situation helped:
I think their decision is a little easier than Janeway’s. They had the benefit of having an advanced Tricoder that helped them do a better job than Janeway did.
In any case, it's great that Star Trek: Lower Decks was able to honor Voyager, especially in light of Prodigy's cancellation. Now, two animated Trek shows are keeping the memory of Voyager alive and still making a case that we need a movie to happen even after all of these years. If nothing else, can we finally get Harry Kim a promotion?
Those with a Paramount+ subscription can catch new episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks on Thursdays. Tune in for more Cerritos shenanigans and more context on that mysterious ship traveling through the galaxy.