Brad Dourif: playing the wretch

Brad Dourif as Lon Suder

This week on Voyager a theological Journey we meet the character of Lon Suder a Betaziod who was part of the Maquis. Suder, who is played by Brad Dourif , joined the Maquis as an outlet for this violent tendencies. He worked under Chakotay and was an effective member of his cell, although he did not engender much affection from his colleagues. They regarded him as too efficient when killing Cardassians and this made them uncomfortable around him. In fact, Chakotay had to hold him back in excessive situations, an action that almost caused himself harm.

While researching this week for the Podcast Voyager a Theological Journey I began to explore the roles played by Brad Dourif through his career and soon confirmed that this character portrayed here in Star Trek is one what he has crafted and perfected. Beginning with his debut in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975, Dourif plays the role of the psychopath consistently from role to role in drama, science fiction and fantasy.

This piece from the documentary American Caesar Salad showcases the work of Brad Dourif as a 45-year-long track of excellence in feature films and takes a look at the ways in which Dourif builds his characters, using the vast tapestry of performances as evidence. His compelling style is shown again and again through scene after scene of disturbing brilliance the explore darker issues that many of us would prefer not to encounter but can not look away from.

In our episode of Voyager titled Meld Captain Janeway must wrestle with what to do with a psychopath in the micro community of the lost ship. Protection of the crew is of great concern in the face of such unrestrained violence, but issues of justice, retribution and grace are also significant in the conversation.

How do we explore grace when it comes to violence? It can be very easy to switch the the theoretical when it comes to behavior that leads to acts of evil. there is a sense that we secretly and some times not so secretly hope that bad people will get whats coming to them. Perhaps it is a kind of protective othering that allows us the remove the humanity from those we label as evil and discard them. We have a desire for a special place in Hell for the worst of us. Amazing grace, however calls is see past the theory and explore that it means to forgive those who are crucifying us while we are being crucified. Such grace when pointed at out selves allows us to see into the dark recess of our own humanity and deal with the wretch that lives there hidden from view , the self we deny that betrays the person we want the world to believe we are.

It is a risky thing to even begin to explore and live Tuvok such darkness can threaten to over take us threatening the destabilize the measures of socialized control we have carefully put in place. We can choose to Lock our Lon Suder’s away, we could use violence to terminate them but I find myself wondering what a response of truly amazing grace for all involved look like.

My thanks goes to actors like Brad Dourif who by making space for such characters to explore so that denial, betrayal and violence are not our only options when faced with such complex scenarios such as this one in real life.

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