Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Parturition"

**

Air date: 10/9/1995
Written by Tom Szollosi
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"If you hear muffled screams, consider that a request for a beam-out." — Paris

Nutshell: The performances are good, but is this an episode of Trek or an after-school special?

"Parturition" is one of those character pieces that relies on very little storyline. Unfortunately, it's one of the more mundane character pieces in a long time, and the little bit of existing plot has no real focus or meaning. Voyager is beginning to worry me now—this is the fourth loser in a row.

Captain Janeway sends Paris and Neelix on a shuttlecraft mission to scout a violent M-class planet (nicknamed "Planet Hell") with interference preventing the use of the transporters. (What good are transporters anyway? Half the planets encountered by the Voyager have "interference" so severe as to render the transporters useless.)

Neither wants to go on this mission. Neelix and Paris are not on good terms with one another (they had just gotten into a physical fight in the mess hall moments before the captain sent for them). Neelix is angry, jealous, and paranoid. He's afraid Paris wants to steal Kes away from him. He's convinced that every time he turns his back, Kes and Paris are conspiring to run away together and leave him alone and destroyed. Well, maybe that's exaggerating Neelix's thoughts a bit, but he is one excessively jealous guy.

Surprisingly, the opening two acts of this story are the best. It centers around the fury Neelix allows to build inside him because of his jealousy. While an entire A-story centering around Neelix's disapproval of Paris' attraction to Kes seems to me as one of the dumbest ideas for a science fiction show, some miracle of execution (an admirable direction by Jonathan Frakes) allows this to remain not only tolerable, but somewhat amusing. It's not every day you see a fight between two people on a Federation starship that results in both being covered in pasta sauce.

It's as the episode gets into its latter acts, however, when the story begins turning extremely trite. Paris and Neelix go down on the shuttle together. (Fine.) They sit in silence for most of the trip. (Okay.) There's an emergency, and the shuttle hurtles out of control and crashes. (Sort of okay.) Now the two have to force themselves to put their differences aside and work together to survive. (Predictable.) They walk into a cave and find a nest of eggs, from one of which a reptilian creature hatches. Aw, it's sick. (Trite.) Paris wants to leave it alone. Neelix wants to nurse it back to health. The two finally agree and all but shake hands. (Very trite.)

The moral of the story? Even if you get into a fight with somebody, you can still make up and be their friend and work together to help others and...oh, never mind. The lessons here are on the level of an ABC after school special. Watching these two come to terms with each other is not completely unpalatable, but definitely not interesting either.

Back in orbit, an alien vessel attacks the Voyager. The aliens seem to have an interest in the planet. They land their ship near Paris' and Neelix's location. It turns out that the newborn reptile is of an advanced, sentient race, and the ship that attacked the Voyager are just the parents checking on their nest. Give me a break. The fact that creatures capable of cruising the galaxy would need to hatch their eggs in some cave on Planet Hell really strains credulity. More frustrating is how we never get to understand who these aliens are or what they want—their role in the episode is just so unimpressive and poorly conceived. They cruise in, fire their phasers a few times, check their nest, and leave. Thanks, but no thanks. I thought this was the Delta Quadrant, where aliens are new and interesting.

Even with this drearily uninteresting premise, Frakes manages to keep things watchable. The Paris/Neelix scenes transcend the writing since both actors seem to be sincerely into their roles. Virtually saving the episode is Kate Mulgrew, who turns in a wonderful performance as Janeway. The Captain comes across very nicely in this episode—Mulgrew is engaging in the lighter moments; commanding yet likable when the ship is in danger. (Her line in regards to Paris' and Neelix's personal problem—"Solve it."—is a particular delight.) But can't we get a story worthy of these performances?

Previous episode: Twisted
Next episode: Persistence of Vision

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15 comments on this review

Mal - Thu, Oct 29, 2009 - 12:31am (USA Central)
Each piece of this episode has been done better by other Star Trek iterations. Two men in a cave who don't like each other: Sisko and Dukat in DS9's 6x11 Waltz; Two men hate each other and have to work together to survive: Odo and Quark in DS9's 5x09 The Ascent; Crazy love triangle resolved through jointly overcoming hardship: Ezri and Worf (wrt Bashir) in DS9's 7x18 et. seq. finale.

Here is what Star Trek got wrong - it didn't explicitly do what Doctor Who has done. While TNG (like WHO in the UK) enjoyed a wide audience, DS9 did not. Instead of treating that like some kind of step-child failure, TPTB should have consciously focused DS9 on the adult demo (much like Torchwood does for WHO). Of course that leaves the kids - and just as the Sarah Jane Adventures has in the UK for WHO, VOY could have specifically served a younger audience of Star Trek fans here in the US of A.
Carbetarian - Fri, Apr 15, 2011 - 8:20pm (USA Central)
Ok, this episode was trite fluff. But, for some reason, I actually enjoyed watching it. It made me laugh a few times, and the story and characters moved along at a very watchable pace.

The only thing that I really thumbed my nose at here was that doofy looking alien baby. That thing looked straight out of that show "Dinosaurs" from back in the day. Even though it looked more like the older brother on the show than the baby, I still felt like yelling out "NOT THE MAMA! NOT THE MAMA!" every time it was shown on screen.

Anyway, I think this one was a two and half star episode for me. I felt it was on the better side of mediocre.
Matthias - Mon, Aug 15, 2011 - 9:32am (USA Central)
Hey remember back in 'the 37s' how Voyager could casually swoop down through atmospheric turmoil that'd tear a shuttlecraft apart? Well, nobody on the crew does so it's time to wreck another shuttle.


Roger Lynch - Thu, Jul 19, 2012 - 1:48pm (USA Central)
This episode is claerly a recycled from the DAKTARI serie of the sixties.
There, Jack and Mick struggeled to often and Dr. Tracy had sent them on an excursion in the desert.
The hereos had an accident with the Jeep. Also they had found some fresh fledged birds. Over the care for them both men found a way to understand and respect each other.
That is exactely the same script.
sfdebris - Mon, Mar 25, 2013 - 6:32am (USA Central)
"I'll kill you!"
-Neelix, self-appointed Morale Officer & the predicted 'breakout' character of Voyager.
Lt. Yarko - Tue, Jun 11, 2013 - 1:18pm (USA Central)
I got bored as Paris and Neelix were in the cave arguing over leaving the hatchling. I know an episode isn't good when I go to Jammers to read the review while the show is still playing. :)

The fight was childish, the make-up too predictable and easy. The actors did well with the material, however. And, I agree with Jammer. I absolutely love Kate's work. She does as well as Picard with emoting realistically and complexly while dealing with very difficult, techno-babble-laced lines.
Lt. Yarko - Tue, Jun 11, 2013 - 1:19pm (USA Central)
Oh, and I am about sick of plot devices such as the transporter blocking atmosphere and atmospheric windows. Ugh.
inline79 - Wed, Sep 18, 2013 - 1:23pm (USA Central)
Oh that shuttle looked salvageable, I'm sure they towed it out of the ground on their way out. I can't imagine the Prime Directive allows you to leave your garbage on alien planets!

Otherwise, an excellent character show - glad to see the end of the Kes triangle!
Nic - Wed, Nov 6, 2013 - 9:13am (USA Central)
This episode contains one of my favourite examples of really bad writing:

KES: And I'm sitting here, and I'm feeling guilty for some reason.
KIM: Guilty? Why?
KES: I don't know. But I don't like it. And it's their fault.
Ty Kendall - Thu, Feb 6, 2014 - 9:15am (USA Central)
Has anyone ever explained how at the beginning of the episode when they're in the holodeck that the ships attacking Kes's shuttle are Jem Hadar? At this point in time Voyager was unaware of the Dominion, even in later seasons when they make contact with the Alpha Quadrant Chakotay says that the Maquis were destroyed by "a new species from the Gamma Quadrant".
Paul - Thu, Feb 6, 2014 - 3:01pm (USA Central)
@Ty: It's a major continuity error. Voyager launched on stardate 48315, which puts the time of their launch during the events of "The Abandoned", a third season episode where a Jem Hadar infant is discovered.

There's just no reason the Voyager crew shouldn't have known about the Dominion. The only explanation is that the Maquis didn't know about it, but that seems implausible.
Ric - Tue, Mar 18, 2014 - 10:53pm (USA Central)
Paris: "I checked for life signs, there weren't any"
Neelix: "There are now".

Because you know, a tricorder can read through walls, entire buildings, mountains, soil, but not an eggshell.

Gosh, I literally had to jump over parts to not get bored to the point of sleeping.
Ric - Tue, Mar 18, 2014 - 11:11pm (USA Central)
Oh yes, and the unceremonious way they just let themselves be seen and them beamed up by Voyager without knowing if the alien lives/believes would be altered by knowing their existence is... once again annoying. Either Prime Directive exists and they plan to follow it along with other Federation and Starfleet moral stuff (e.g TOS, TNG), or not (e.g DS9). The show has to make a decision.
DPC - Thu, Apr 24, 2014 - 5:18pm (USA Central)
I went into this episode out of boredom, expecting to hate it.

It grew on me.

I didn't expect Neelix and Paris' argument to continue on (though they do make up at the end, go figure), much less be a fresh take...

But what I really liked was the M-Class planet fooling their sensors into thinking they were finding humanoid-compatible food when what they were reading was the food the lizard creatures ate.

Loved the ending as well.

And, yup, the tricorder problem was grating... It's amazing, where they put in some thought -- and where they overlooked detail just to keep suspense going...

3 of 4 stars, and a lot of it has to do with the quality of the acting drawing and maintaining interest... but - yeah - in 1995 I would not have cared for this episode at all...
Vylora - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 10:42pm (USA Central)
It's a credit to Frakes' direction and some good performances that this episode is better than it actually is. Unfortunately, it is still subpar quality Star Trek with more contrivances than intelligent storytelling. Watchable enough, but not passable.

2 stars.

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