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Lon Suder the heroic sociopath

March 20, 2014

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Who? The sociopathic lieutenant who graced 3 episodes of Voyager in Seasons 2 and 3.

Played by? Brad Dourif i.e. Chucky the killer doll from ‘Childsplay’

What did he do? Killed an engineer who looked at him funny. Lurked. Meditated. Killed off-screen Kazon in engineering [might not have been Kazon, could’ve been set-designers]

Punishment? Kicking back in deluxe single, ensuite quarters for the rest of season 2. More scenes with Tuvok.

What happened to him in the end? Shot in the back by Kazon after re-embracing his violent core and saving the ship.

Did he get a memorial? I doubt it. That would’ve been far too interesting for Voyager.

Details:

Possibly the only sociopath Trek ever attempted.

I suppose you could say ‘Dukat’ in DS9, but he was too passionate to be a sociopath. Or maybe Weyoun is a contender…he did have a creepy aloofness about murdering those 2 million Cardies in Lakarian City.

But he was a bad guy…Suder wasn’t. He was just a guy. A guy that we saw for the first time when it was plot-relevant for him to murder someone.

This is one of the things that bugs me about Voyager. It’s a ship of 150-odd people, lost in the Delta Quadrant, no star-bases to exchange crew members…so why are the only recurring crew members we see Hogan [who gets eaten by a dinosaur], Ayala [the really tall security guy who gets one line in seven seasons], Ensign Vorek [possibly the least interesting Vulcan in Trek] and the first Chief engineer who disappears for six seasons before returning in season 7 to be executed by a group of fundamentalists living in a cave?

That was a pretty long question, but the point’s valid.

We should’ve seen Suder more often in the first 2 seasons, as well as the other crew members, and they all should’ve been given something to do every now and then. It’s almost embarrassing when the random ensigns are listening to the senior staff and don’t even get to say ‘yes, sir’ at the end of it.

What other TV show does this to their bit parts?

I mean, are they actors? Did they just win a competition to have a walk on part? Why not give them a line or two? Why not establish some kind of personality so we feel more invested if they end up dying later on?

Ah forget it…let’s go back to Brad [Dourif].

Suder isn’t a proper sociopath

He’s a guy with violent impulses, apparently. This isn’t the same as being a sociopath. Actually, now that I think about it, sociopath might be my label for him, not Trek’s. I don’t think they classified him definitively in the episode.

Forget this.

Suder is the best shot in the whole of Trek-land!

Have you ever seen a guy run into a room and, even with the element of surprise, shoot at least 8 enemies dead in one slick move?
Voyager fans have.

This trick is called ‘convenient writing that makes the action go so fast it’ll never be properly anaylsed’ and it’s common in Trek, especially in the new movies.

The different layers of the trick are this: sometimes you need an action scene to be tense so you make everyone bad at shooting/fighting, even the main characters. This is quite close to realism, as every species has the instinct to survive, which means they won’t typically be standing in the middle of engineering waiting to be shot, they’ll be taking cover and making damn sure there’s no part of them visible to hit.

Other times, you need a main character to be in a tough situation e.g. they might be alone and surrounded by enemies, so his/her shooting will suddenly become more accurate, and the enemies will become fidgety and inept. If the realism of the previous action scenes were maintained then, logically, the main character would be outnumbered, worn down and, finally, killed.

Then, you have the times when the main characters are trying to execute a larger plan, and killing a few guards is just a tiny plot point that helps them to get to the bigger target. E.g. escaping from a prison cell to warn the ship of a grand Romulan plot. In this case, the main characters will become incredibly strong and casual with their phasers, shooting and hitting their targets without any real aim, whilst the enemies will become the intellectual equivalent of…err, of Star Trek extras, I guess.

Basically, in order for Suder to die a hero’s death, he needed to get to that console in engineering without being shot. But at the same time, the whole ship had been taken over by Kazon so there had to be at least 8-10 guys in there at the time, so…we get a very fast scene of Suder shooting people we can’t see who don’t seem to be shooting back. Maybe they were so engrossed in their work, they thought the phaser fire was just someone messing around with the doors, or saying ‘woosh, woosh’ a lot.

Suder is invisible to the rest of the crew

One of the crew is murdered, the guy who did it has confessed that he can’t control his violent impulses, he’s gonna be locked in his quarters for the rest of the journey, which most characters can usually escape from by overriding the door controls…and no-one’s got an opinion about this?

Voyager can be so frustrating sometimes. I admit, I thought it was lightweight when I first watched it, but watching it a second time, I’ve come to like it a lot more [a lot of the concepts, though wasted, are interesting, and there’s a closeness to the crew that comes across well], so I don’t want to be too harsh, but…every TV show thrives on conflict, even Trek.

That’s why Voyager improved a lot when Seven of Nine came on board. A lot of the crew didn’t like her or trust her and there were enough scenes of them showing this for it to really add some much-needed tension. What will Seven disagree with next? Who might try to hit her? Will they ever reconcile?

The funny thing is…Suder was basically Seven of Nine, a season and a half earlier.

Seriously, if you think about it, it almost adds up. Look at the similarities:

– Suder murdered someone because of his mental character, which to a large degree is beyond his control. It’s a product of his biology or genetics or psychology, some part that wasn’t initiated by him.

– Seven assimilated millions of people because of her own assimilation by the Borg, which was beyond her control.

The similarity is the lack of guilt both of them felt. Suder couldn’t feel much of anything, even if he did know it was wrong to kill.

– Seven is re-habilitated by the crew and the captain, despite being disliked by a lot of them in season 4.

– Suder is half-rehabilitated by Tuvok’s mind-rape then told to spend the rest of the journey in his quarters. There’s a chance he would’ve been let out eventually, but we’ll never know.

– Seven rediscovers her humanity and is forgiven and forgives herself for everything she did as a Borg.

– Suder is shot in the back by Kazon and dies a hero, instead of being slowly rehabilitated over several seasons.

Note: this comparison is actually dramatized in the season 7 episode ‘Repentance’, with 7 of 9 and the prisoner who gets his brain fixed by the doctor.

Why didn’t they keep Suder around and try to rehabilitate him instead of bringing in Seven of Nine?

Well, for starters, he didn’t have breasts the size of Chakotay’s head.

But that’s not the real reason…or it’s not the reason that could be used officially without everyone looking like a room of perverts with a Raquel Welch fixation [which, let’s face it, is what Star Trek writers are].

I’m guessing there’s a distinction between the characters of Seven and Suder that has more to do with modern audiences than the idealistic Trek society of the 24th Century.

Simply, we haven’t yet reached a stage where we can fully believe in the rehabilitation of a convicted killer. Suder killed a guy when he was “human” or “Betazoid”, which is basically a human substitute anyway, whereas Seven was under the control of the Borg and looked like a cybernetic killing machine. She didn’t even have hair!

Seven is also markedly different from her old Borg self in personality, though she does keep some of the mannerisms, whereas Suder still has the same personality and speech patterns and body movements…in short, there was no physical representation of his threat, nothing tangible to hold up and point at and say, here, this metal shit, this was what made him kill the dude. With Seven, you’ve got all that Borg tech to blame, but with Suder, you just have to trust him that he’s changed and that’s pretty tough when his pupils are black.

The same point crops up in ‘Repentance’ – the prisoner/killer can’t be reformed naturally, it has to be some kind of tangible problem with his brain.

A memorial for Suder?

After he was killed by the Kazon, there was a short scene between the doctor and Tuvok where they both honoured his actions.

‘He died saving the ship, you would’ve been very proud of him,’ says the Doctor.

‘I hope he finds the peace in death that he couldn’t find with my sweaty fingers on his forehead,’ says Tuvok.

‘Suder who?’ asks everyone else.

You’d think that saving the ship would earn Suder some kind of memorial, especially as the captain said in the ‘meld’ episode that she believed firmly in rehabilitation. Yes, he killed a guy, but that was due to a kind of mental illness that he couldn’t control. With a little Vulcan help, he was able to change his ways. In the Trek universe, this should’ve merited a memorial.

What about the guy he killed?

That’s what would’ve been so great about it. There would’ve been crew members who knew the dead guy and would’ve gone nuts about Suder’s memorial, whereas others might’ve been more forgiving. That means two sides with opposing views. People who don’t think the same about something. Conflict!

Voyager did do conflict sometimes

Yes, I’ve been a bit harsh, especially on the piece I did about Chakotay being a walking tattoo who only ever said ‘report’ and ‘raise shields.’ He did disagree with Janeway a few times, notably in the first Borg episode and in ‘Night’, which was another great concept wasted. Well, half wasted.

Come to think of it, Chakotay probably disagreed with Janeway more than Riker did with Picard…

But the point remains: the conflict was never as developed as it could’ve been. It usually popped up, waved its arms a bit then got quickly resolved by the end of the episode.

Remember that time the Cardassian war criminal hologram operated on B’lanna, and both her and the Bajoran guy went nuts? I think the Bajoran even resigned his commission…

What happened in the next episode?

No mention of it.

The Bajoran guy?

Never saw him again.

Where did he go?

To a place without cameras, it seems.

Didn’t TNG do the same thing?

It did, but that was before DS9, so it had an excuse. Voyager was a little after DS9 so it should’ve known better. And with the concept it had, it should’ve known even better than that.

A ship of 150 people stuck in the Delta Quadrant. Nowhere to dump your problems. Recurring characters a plot necessity.

Why was there not more conflict?

I really don’t know. Perhaps they wanted the show to be more positive than DS9, which was, admittedly, pretty dark.

But then why introduce a sociopath into the crew if you’re aiming for optimism? To change him and give him a hero’s death?

Again, I really don’t know.

What else?

Would it have helped if Suder had worn contact lenses so he didn’t have pitch black eyeballs?

Probably.

Should the Kazon have shot Suder twice instead of waiting for him to press the button on the console that would allow Tom ‘Danger’ Paris to cripple Voyager?

Yes, the guy was incompetent.

Where do you take a shit if you’re in the brig?

Dunno. Floor?

Wasn’t it interesting how Tuvok [when possessed by Suder-vision] chose Neelix as his victim in the holosuite?

It really was, but like I said, Voyager doesn’t dwell on moments like these. Also, it was such a Vulcan thing to do…expel violent thoughts by embracing them on the holosuite. It does have a certain logic to it, probably derived from their experiences with the Pon Farr, where the idea is to let the ‘blood fever’ reach its zenith in order to get rid of it.

I’m not sure what it says about Vulcan morality though…I’ve always thought there was the potential for greater terror or dictatorship via a logic-only system rather than via emotionalism. It would be good if a new series of Trek could explore this idea…

How did Neelix survive a season and a half without annoying Suder enough for him to whack the cheesy fucker over the head with a rolling pin?

God knows. Blind luck, probably.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. boraxo permalink
    April 9, 2014 2:24 pm

    They didn’t give the no-names any dialogue because there’s a big pay difference between people who speak on camera and those who don’t. You also have to pay residuals to any actor who speaks on screen – no dialogue means no residuals.

    • Altstartrek permalink
      April 26, 2014 4:00 pm

      Thanks, man, I didn’t know that. I did know Trek was quite a cheap show, but didn’t realise it was that cheap. Still, they could’ve chosen a couple more recurring characters to give lines to, just to increase the feeling of ‘one small ship/family.’ Ayala being one of them.

  2. jessi sluzalo permalink
    October 5, 2016 7:29 am

    It’s a shame, I really liked Suder. It’s really too bad they couldn’t get over the typical, “trek”, development mentality that’s held back by it’s audience, he had serious potential and likely would have turned the show around making it much more popular than it never was, “albeit it was still popular.” The man was more memorable in 3 episodes than several of the common cast were with the entire series.

    I honestly believe they should have had him redeem himself and reintegrate himself with the crew, it would have made for some genuinely interesting episodes, much better than the good 1/4th of the show’s episodes which were just… Garbage.

    I loved how he was controlled by his illness his whole life, yet once given the opportunity to change with his temporary, “cure”, with the meld, he took control of his life and recovery, even managing to discover real talent.

    In his last episode, watching him deal with his inner demons and finding strength in the person he had become to do what needed to be done was very uplifting. It’s a reminder that we can change, and become better people even if we don’t believe it’s possible.

    One of my favorite episodes. Basics 1/2.

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