Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Homestead"

***

Air date: 5/9/2001
Written by Raf Green
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I've never seen First Contact Day celebrated quite like this. When I was your age, all it meant was a day off from school." — Janeway to Naomi

In brief: Not groundbreaking, but nice.

Neelix is a supporting character for whom the writers have never found an adequate purpose. For seven seasons he has floated here and there with a myriad of alleged duties but no real direction or strong motivations. Ethan Phillips has essentially been assigned the role of "miscellaneous character." So it's fitting, I guess, that the episode that bids Neelix adieu is one that makes the effort to show him as a Voyager crew member facing a crisis of purpose. The fact that there's a scene where Naomi Wildman tells Neelix she's too old to be tucked into bed only reinforces the issue.

The prospect of uselessness is a frightening thing, something demonstrated several years ago in a previous Neelix story, "Fair Trade." It's trite but true that most of us need to feel needed. Many who ponder the value of their lives probably hope that they have made or will make a difference to others — the greater the better.

"Homestead" takes that notion to write the final chapter for Neelix, one that is not hugely original or groundbreaking, but is pleasant and sincere nonetheless. The plot is more or less routine, but the characters are here, and the writers and actors do well for making us care about Neelix's struggles and choices.

As another example in a long history of spatial geography tricks with little regard for logic, the Voyager crew happens upon a colony of Talaxian refugees living inside an asteroid in an asteroid belt. How did they get here from their homeworld, roughly 40,000 light-years across the Delta Quadrant, in apparently only a decade or two? I don't know, and asking such a question is simply a hollow, obligatory gesture at this point. Perhaps they were as lucky as Voyager has been in finding shortcuts. Luckier still that Voyager happened upon them.

Neelix finds that being around his people rekindles feelings of home. One could argue that over the years Neelix would've come to think of Voyager as his home, but perhaps it's not that simple. Maybe he sees himself more as a traveler with a still-unknown destination. With the ostensive destination being Earth — a planet he's never seen — his own people can certainly be a strong reminder of his previous home.

The overriding plot is a relatively hoary exercise in which one group of people are threatened by another, more unreasonable group. In this case the asteroid belt is going to be mined by the aliens who own it. They don't intend to let something silly like a Talaxian homestead stand in the way of profits and efficiency schedules. The Talaxian asteroid is the proverbial house that needs to be razed in order for the proverbial new highway to go through — although not really, since it stands to reason that the miners could simply move on and skip this one measly asteroid. Honestly, the miners might as well be wearing horns and carrying pitchforks; they growl and intimidate, even going so far as to threaten a little boy. Even their makeup design is sinister. Subtlety is not a virtue to be found here.

What works is the gradual way Neelix realizes that he must help the Talaxians protect their home. These Talaxians are primarily pacifists, but Neelix argues that their home is something worth taking a stand for, and tries to convince the passive leader, Oxilon (Rob Labelle), that running to find a new home isn't plausible forever; they've already been pushed off at least one world entirely.

Neelix's choices are in no small part affected by his emerging feelings for a widow named Dexa (Julianne Christie) and her young son, Brax (Ian Meltzer). Their scenes are handled with a quiet sincerity that works. But what I found more interesting were some of Neelix's interactions with the Voyager crew in the midst of the unfolding dilemma. There's a scene where Neelix tells Brax that his duties aren't of huge importance (and I'm inclined to agree based on evidence the series has provided), but Chakotay and Kim come to the rescue and explain Neelix's various titles and cite him as a valuable crew member.

Better still are the Tuvok/Neelix scenes. Tuvok/Neelix sequences have often been utter failures; even this year we had a stupid roommate-quarrel plot in "Prophecy," while other relatively recent episodes like "Riddles" have shown Tuvok begrudging every possible warm feeling about Neelix that might rear its head in the depths of his Vulcan heart. But here we have what should've happened a long time ago — a vocal acknowledgement from Tuvok about Neelix's strengths and resourcefulness as a potential leader, even though they might exist alongside other annoying qualities. It's perfectly worded from Tuvok, and I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see him be believably civil toward Neelix instead of needlessly cold as forced upon him by a script. Similarly, it's also nice to see Neelix acting like a real person instead of a comic annoyance who, for example, trashes Tuvok's quarters while in the throes of Klingon passion.

There's a sequence where Neelix uses his cargo ship to help install shield generators to protect the Talaxian asteroid from the alien miners. This is serviceable action storytelling, though I think the way the episode invokes the Prime Directive is erroneous: If a warp-capable group of people asks for help in defending themselves, I don't see how that's a Prime Directive issue saying Janeway can't be involved. Yes, she may be taking sides in an interstellar conflict, but that happens every day.

Ultimately, Neelix decides to stay behind with the Talaxians and start a new home when Janeway submits that perhaps this opportunity for him will also allow him to remain as an official Delta Quadrant-based ambassador for Starfleet. This is neat and tidy, perhaps, but it's certainly reasonable and allows a good send-off.

"Homestead" is not a great or inspired episode of Voyager, but it is a dignified and heartfelt one. I must admit: By the end, when Tuvok's goodbye consisted of a restrained, Tuvokian concession to dance with the heel of one foot, I was touched. The scene keeps dialog to a minimum and relies on nods and glances, providing a great example of less-is-more mentality. It's one moment that almost makes up for years of redundant banter. If dignity has been a lost virtue for Neelix as the writers have previously written him, they managed to find it here.

In brief: Doc engages in a serious role-playing game.

Previous episode: Natural Law
Next episode: Renaissance Man

Season Index

34 comments on this review

Jakob M. Mokoru - Tue, Apr 8, 2008 - 4:11pm (USA Central)
It is really sort of ironic that NEELIX, of all the characters gets by far the best fare-well in not only a moment but an entire show that really touched me far more than "Endgame" ever could!
Saxman - Mon, May 5, 2008 - 8:49am (USA Central)
I agee 100% with Jakob. after the great send-off Neelix received, I was really set up for a great series finale which did NOT occur. Of course TATV was even worse, but enough has been said about that already.
Jay - Sat, Sep 5, 2009 - 8:31am (USA Central)
I still think that Votager should have gotten home in an episode immediately following Author, Author, and these last few episodes should have beden about the aftermath of that. It also would have been better for Neelix to have come all the way to Earth (something he clearly wanted to do because, unlike Seven and Naomi, he was as entranced by the telepathic pitcher plant as anyone) and we could have seen what kind of life he makes for himself within or without Starfleet. Instead we get Talaxians that are at the absolute least 60,000 light years from where they ought to be, simply for the excuse fo dropping off Neelix.
Brian - Fri, Mar 19, 2010 - 11:09am (USA Central)
The Tuvok heel dance was one of the best scenes in Trek history.
navamske - Tue, Jun 29, 2010 - 10:10pm (USA Central)
It isn't accurate to say that Neelix has never seen Earth -- he saw it in "Future's End." Nonetheless, there's a certain irony (or something) in the fact that neither of the two aliens who joined the crew in "Caretaker" specifically to be part of their journey made it all the way there ("Future's End" excepted).
Michael - Wed, Jul 21, 2010 - 10:33am (USA Central)
A jukebox? *sigh* Cochrane's favorite music is the mid-20th-century rock'n'roll? *sigh*

Another thing that, stunningly, only just struck me: How subpar Voyager's (and Star Trek's) technology is. I mean, there's Paris piloting the shuttle to the asteroid, there's a minor explosion nearby and the shuttle loses its shields and is forced to crash-land. Add to that the incessant instances of critical systems malfunctioning and it's as if Windows 98 was the epitome of stability and reliability compared to the 24th-century stuff. How did Voyager and the other starships pass Q.A., I'll never know. Why would you send a starship on intergalactic odysseys when any minor spatial or temporal fluctuation (or, keyword: Anomaly) can wreak havoc with pretty much every one of its mainframe systems!?! It's like Boeing manufacturing an airplane that has to be crash-landed every third flight it makes!!

Be that as it may, for someone without "an adequate purpose," Neelix sure emanaged to annoy the living hell out of me. His incessant joviality, which he insists on foisting on everyone else, whether they feel like partaking or not is infuriating enough. But he also has the deep, caring, sensitive emotional side *puke* which means that, whenever there's anyone with even a hint of a personal problem, there he is ready to analyze it and talk about it for at least ten minutes, in the most boring Dr.-Phil-style manner conceivable. Even if it's not a problem, there's inevitable a scene of him in every third episode giving Seven or Naomi or The Doc or Icheb or whoever a pep-talk, encouraging them to be more human, find themselves and all that. ARGH!!! The one time I remember not minding him was when he boned that Klingon woman a few episodes back. I find it impossible to believe he did that but it was so out of his usual boring/annoying character that I quite liked it, especially because he's the antithesis of an alpha-male. (Then again, there is NO alpha-male on Voyager - except Acoushla Moya during his "native" moments -, but plenty of alpha-females: How "enlightened" and "progressive"!)

Having said that, I liked him in this episode, particularly in the second half. He transformed into someone of substance, rather than being just an irritating-as-a-fly clown. He even called Tuvok "Mr. Tuvok," as opposed to that derisive "Mr. Vulcan." It was quite touching and I particularly appreciated there not having been long and emotional goodbyes. Despite my distaste for Neelix, the end of the show was quite stirring.
Paul - Thu, Sep 9, 2010 - 12:20pm (USA Central)
Michael - Cochrane's favorite music wasn't an imagining of Voyager's writers, it was presented in First Contact.

About this episode, it was a nice send off. Though I had no attachment to Neelix whatsoever. The only sympathy I felt was for the crew because I knew they would be sad at seeing him go.
Cloudane - Mon, Apr 11, 2011 - 2:33pm (USA Central)
A great goodbye for Neelix. Whilst I question the choice to dedicate an episode to that particular character, that's what they wanted to do and so their passion came through.

It was kind of sad that Naomi's last words to him were that she doesn't need him - it was the trigger he needed to move on, but how about some kind words after she finds out he's leaving? He's practically her dad. But never mind.

Touching final scenes - how fitting that the most poignant part should be Tuvok's perfectly Vulcan goodbye: he's as careful as ever to supposedly not express emotion, yet anyone can tell just how heartfelt it really was. A much more sincere ending to that kind of friendship (the very well hidden one that makes them seem pretty much like enemies to an unknowing observer) than what they did with Odo and Quark in DS9.

3-3.5. Downhill we go to the finish line..
Kieran - Thu, Jun 2, 2011 - 8:19am (USA Central)
I really liked this one actually. I was very surprised Neelix actually left in the end - I was sure he'd change his mind last minute. It wasn't til the credits came up that I actually accepted he was gone. Loved the final scene between him and Tuvok - I've always liked episodes that focused on their relationship (which I guess puts me in the minority here). Though I agree Naomi should have got a goodbye too.
Jay - Sat, Sep 24, 2011 - 10:07pm (USA Central)
Didn't Neelix have yellow irises in the early years?
Jay - Sat, Sep 24, 2011 - 10:42pm (USA Central)
And with Naomi there in Neelix's exodus walk through the corridor, it was really obvious that Samantha Wildman was missing...this episode would hasve been a good reason to bring that actress back.
Kristen - Tue, Jan 3, 2012 - 10:08am (USA Central)
Insert picture of a ham with a pen stuck in it.
Captain Jim - Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - 10:34pm (USA Central)
I pretty much agree with what everyone else has said.

I just wanted to add that it was good to see Naomi Wildman back in this episode. Not sure how long it had been since we'd seen her, but it seemed like a very long time. And she looked noticeably older here.
Jack - Fri, Jun 22, 2012 - 1:36pm (USA Central)
So where did that last scene with Naomi and Neelix take place? Does Naomi have her own quarters? I assume it's her mother's quarters, but it makes it all the more glaring that Samantha Wildman wasn't in this episode...
odysey - Thu, Nov 22, 2012 - 6:33am (USA Central)
Hate to sound cruel but they should of killed samantha when she decided to not do the show anymore. Could of made for some interesting episodes.
KL - Fri, May 3, 2013 - 3:30pm (USA Central)
Now in the midst of watching Voyager's pre-Seven years, I can see how Neelix became one of the more disliked characters. Given his personality in the first couple of seasons, one should wonder what was Janeway thinking when she made him a morale officer. Those who gave up the show never saw the gradual transformation of the character into someone more likeable and sympathetic.
Adara - Sat, May 18, 2013 - 9:20pm (USA Central)
Where is Samantha Wildman? You'd think the writers would at least make some attempt to explain her absence. I know Voyager had lazy writers but this was just ridiculous. Why didn't they just kill her off if they were never going to show her again? Samantha's absence has gone from a funny continuity error to a genuinely disturbing show of neglect. All it would have taken is one line to explain why she's never there, and the writers couldn't even do that. Shameful.
ProgHead777 - Tue, Jul 2, 2013 - 7:31am (USA Central)
I have watched Voyager in its entirety three times now over the last decade and some change. In the previous viewings, I was as devout a Neelix hater as you are likely to find. I called him the Jar-Jar Binks of the Star Trek universe. I cheered at the scene where a mentally disturbed Tuvok strangled a holographic simulation of him to death. I frequently implored various other crew members on the other side of the TV screen to "accidentally" beam him into cold, dark, airless space. I loathed him to the point that I would seriously consider skipping and episode where he was the central character.

In this round, however, things were different for some reason. Perhaps it's simply that I've softened with age. I really don't know. At some point during my current Voyager review, I realized that Neelix's most irritating qualities were to be found mostly in the first three seasons or so. After that, he became very much a background character and his scenes were usually of comedic intent and I must admit they were, more often than not, successful in that intent. Interspersed throughout were some genuinely poignant moments (but never anything too profound or moving). I can't really account for it, but somewhere along the way in this third round I began to like Neelix. IT'S CRAZY, I KNOW! And in fact, I didn't even realize the extent of it myself until this episode. The scene where Neelix walks along the corridor lined with Voyager crew members assembled to bid him final farewell reduced me to a hot, sobbing mess, and I simply cannot explain why. I think it comes down to Ethan Phillips. As poorly written a character as Neelix was, Mr. Phillips brought a sincerity to the part that I, eventually, just couldn't resist. I was sad to see him go.
Leah - Mon, Jul 22, 2013 - 11:02pm (USA Central)
I thought it was a wonderful episode. I've never hated Neelix. Everybody knows someone like him: almost annoyingly upbeat and optimistic, but who wears his heart on his sleeve and would give you the shirt off his back. His worst years were when he was with Kes, because he was a one-note jealous toad at times and their relationship never felt genuine or right.

Now, I loved Kes and was sorry to see her go, but it did wonders for Neelix's character. He actually developed...well, as much as Voyager would allow. I grew to care about him and like him, with the occasional annoyance still seeping in from time to time.

Anyway, this episode was heartfelt and touching. I, too, was moved at his farewell on the ship, but I was also very moved when he walked in and embraced Dexa and Brax. The look on his face said everything. It was so sweet.

It just goes to show you that Ethan Phillips was quite capable of conveying great depth of feeling. He just didn't often get a chance to because the writers couldn't decide if they wanted him to be a cartoon character, the comic relief, or an actual character with real feelings and depth.

Oh, I wanted to mention, I really liked the voice of the actress playing Dexa. It had a really nice dulcet quality, and being under all of that make-up, having a pleasant voice can only help.
azcats - Tue, Sep 3, 2013 - 11:09am (USA Central)
I agree with Leah and Proghead777. best thing that happened to neelix was losing Kes. I liked when they turned him into a "counselor" instead of a "clown."

he was much better in seasons 4-7.

as was the Voyager Show.

I enjoyed this episode. and unlike most 1 episode romances, i believed in this one. maybe because they were from the same species.

in any case, i loved the final scene and how there was little words. i agree...less was more.

tuvoks dance was great. although... a smile would have been good too..as he had been dared by neelix in the past too.

great ending.

3.5 stars.
Jo Jo Meastro - Sun, Oct 20, 2013 - 10:02am (USA Central)
If you had asked me after the pilot what my feelings would be if Neelix left for good, I would have told you the sooner the better and I'll shout with joy as he departs.

Little did I realise I'd grow to like him inspite or because of what a big goofy teddy bear he is and underneath all his earnest smiles was a wonderfully kind soul. He has his troubles and there's such sadness lingering deep within him, which is what drives him to surround himself and everyone in his life with happiness. He bounces off and needs everyone, just as much as they bounce off and need him.

I think that's why he craves attention from Tuvok and to melt that icey Vulcan exterior; it's what keeps him going and we've seen just how hard it hits whenever his bubble gets burst and when no one wants to be a part of his useless, fuzzy, comfort blanketed world.

Of course he's annoying and doesn't know when to stop; but that's part of his loving, wounded nature.

And I'm very sad he had to see him go but happy he found his true home.
Jo Jo Meastro - Sun, Oct 20, 2013 - 10:10am (USA Central)
Easily 4 stars. It was the perfect celebration and magnificent swan song for Neelix. The farewell scene was so moving and you could tell everyone was just trying to enjoy this finale moment of togetherness, even while their hearts were mourning. This to me was a special and beautiful moment in Voyagers' legacy.
Tricia - Mon, Jan 27, 2014 - 8:26am (USA Central)
I agree with almost everything Leah said. (Except the part about loving Kes - I really didn't care for her). I've always liked Neelix, although he was a bit annoying during his 'jealousy' years - but it was a relief when he got over that. And I thought he became a valuable and beloved member of the crew. I was sad to see him go, although I always thought it would be a bit weird for him to be the only Talaxian on Earth. I never really understood why he would want to go, except that his shame (regarding his actions during the war) propelled him to get as far away from Talax as possible. The one thing I really disliked was that he found his home in the dark, gloomy interior of an asteroid. He mentioned in several episodes how much he enjoyed the outdoors and fresh air - the asteroid was very depressing! I was happy that he found a new 'family' though.

Of course there were plot holes, which have already been mentioned (how did the Talaxians get so far from home? They never mention a wormhole, or anything of the sort), but I can forgive that. Typical Star Trek.
Nick - Thu, Feb 6, 2014 - 3:56pm (USA Central)
Neelix, no longer a simple cook or moral officer, but a leader of men! A builder of civilizations! Defender of the asteroid! The guy who gets the job done!

In my imagination, Neelix packed his cargo hull to the brim with replicators, raw materials, and instructions on how to construct holo emitters. That gloomy asteroid will get a hell of a re-fit. :)

4/5
DLPB - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 11:33pm (USA Central)
Wow... what lazy writing. Need an ending for a character light years away from home? No problem... just write in a planet with his race, 3 episodes from the end.
Amanda - Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - 4:59pm (USA Central)
Never did I see this coming where my eyes would hold back tears like Janeway did. Was his character development finally there or did I feel bad for the crew? Maybe it was my own selfish sorrow of feeling the inevitable conclusion to Voyager. Not sure yet. Time to watch the series start to finish again, I suppose.
Leo - Sat, Mar 1, 2014 - 10:59pm (USA Central)
I liked Neelix from the start, I've never understood why he's so hated! Most Trekkers seem too analytical and won't just let the characters emotions wash over them. He doesn't have to be edgy and contentious, he's just an honest and good willed person, let him be! The only times he p****d me off was when he was Mr Jealous Balls, but hey, no ones perfect! I shed a tear at the end of this one. Was so emotional when he finally earnt tuvoks respect! Just tuvok being civil showed how much he cared! I agree with Kate Mulgrew, the element that makes this show is the relationships. It's why I watched all 7 seasons, not always for the storylines but because I loved every character. That doesn't make me a bleeding heart! I'm quite happy that the stories serve the characters and don't have to be based so tediously on logic, some of youz lot need to open up your soul...your arsoul
Amanda - Mon, Mar 3, 2014 - 9:50pm (USA Central)
I like neelix, but I don't love neelix. I couldn't ignore the jealousy scenes, they bothered me. one of my favorite scenes was actually when he mocked Janeway in episode "The Cloud". "Let's see if we can find some space anomaly today that might rip it apart!" The mirror of the fans frustration on air. looove.
Steinway - Fri, Apr 4, 2014 - 8:25pm (USA Central)
Hmm...I must ask, again, my opening question from my comment two episodes ago: WHERE are they getting their food? They are on a bald asteroid! Are they somehow sucking up and metabolizing that gaseous stuff that was coming out of the pipes? Ah well.

I would have been more excited and gung-ho about Neelix staying with those people (and fighting with them for their home) if the asteroid hadn't been such a depressing place to live. It's a rock, people :(

But anyway, I did like the episode very much overall—a "Neelix farewell" episode just sounds like a bad idea, but it came off well. I especially liked the Tuvok/Neelix scenes and how Neelix genuinely felt useful through their conversations, something his character had struggled with pretty much the whole series; and the way that Tuvok empowered Neelix to be more than he was. Although, I found the Tuvok-dance moment at the end rather cheesy, it was a nice touch and a great sendoff for a character.

Wasn't it odd though when they (Neelix and the other two Talaxians) were looking at the picture of Talax in astrometrics and no one mentioned that it had been destroyed?? (Hadn't it?!) That was awkward and a pretty glaring continuity issue since that was one of the only aspects of Neelix's character that wasn't happy-smiley—he had that awful part of his past, that came up many times throughout the series.

I also really liked Janeway's scene with Neelix, when she appealed to his sense of duty—presenting the idea of ambassador in the Delta quadrant to him. It gave him a pass to leave while still honoring his sense of pride.

I would definitely say, the best Neelix episode of the series!
Elliott - Fri, Apr 4, 2014 - 9:08pm (USA Central)
@Steinway: a moon of Talax, Rinax, where Neelix lived was poisoned, but nothing was destroyed.
Steinway - Fri, Apr 11, 2014 - 9:10pm (USA Central)
@Elliott: Thanks, I'm glad I was wrong on one continuity issue :) It's been years since I saw Seasons 1/2 where they talked about that...
Sean - Thu, Aug 14, 2014 - 4:03pm (USA Central)
Oh dear. Neelix has always been a mess of a character that invoked more rage at how utterly annoying he was then anything else. But that's not what really annoyed me here. Surprisingly Neelix was handled with far more dignity then he normally would be.

No, what got me here was the miners. I know the "hard headed, illogical, stubborn, xenophobic, uncooperative aliens of the week" plot device was by now a Voyager cliche, but this is supposed to be a send off for one of your main characters. Not a routine action plot. I don't buy for a second that miners would be as unreasonable as to destroy 500 people and their home. What kind of state do they live in? Fascist? Well we kill hundreds of people but at least the trains run ono time.
Eli - Sun, Aug 24, 2014 - 6:04pm (USA Central)
Very good episode in that it brought out the best in Neelix, and demonstrated the depth of the crew. While, Neelix is not universally admired, his character or another like it was necessary as a counterbalance for the show. His cultural differences with the crew, and his humor were essential contrasts. The actor (Ethan Phillips) also did a perfectly fine job given what was asked of him.

However, it is (as others pointed out) extremely odd that Talaxians (a group that was not as advanced as others) were found so far from where Neelix originally was. This is a great plot hole.

Overall solid episode.
Capitalist - Sun, Nov 23, 2014 - 1:19pm (USA Central)
I've never been a Neelix hater, and always considered him an upright scrappy fellow, regardless of his occasional annoyances. His early jealousy thing was quite offputting, but the episode where he fights Seska's buddy and ends up killing him and saving the ship was probably when I started to give him more respect.

Anyway, no one has mentioned a brief moment in this episode that really seemed like a subtle nod to his bravery and loyalty. When the miners were dropping charges on the asteroid, and Neelix was chasing them and detonating the charges with his ship's weapons, something or other knocks out his weapons. There's another charge heading for the surface, and he turns his ship toward it. Dexa freaks out and asks what he's doing, but at that moment, Voyager shows up to blast the charge and save the day.

What he was doing was aiming his ship on a suicide collision course to detonate the charge before it hit the surface. The scene goes pretty fast, so I wonder how many people caught the intensity of that moment, and understood the decision he had made.

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