Star Trek: Voyager

"Parturition"

2 stars

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

◄ Season Index

35 comments on this review

Mal
Thu, Oct 29, 2009, 12:31am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
"I'll kill you!"
-Neelix, self-appointed Morale Officer & the predicted 'breakout' character of Voyager.
Lt. Yarko
Tue, Jun 11, 2013, 1:18pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
@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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Eli
Wed, Feb 18, 2015, 10:27pm (UTC -6)
I thought the episode was endearing. Thumbs up!
Yanks
Tue, Jul 28, 2015, 1:34pm (UTC -6)
Enter the first episode where Jennifer's acting made me cringe.

Tom and Neelix's little excursion was enjoyable and needed. I was really tiring of the Neelix jealousy thing.

But damn... Kes's little rant with Harry was.... well .... searching for words here.

Best line? DOC: "Hmm. Your world must have very dry literature"

Haha, isn't that the truth... no distrust, no jealousy, no envy, no betrayal... no Shakespeare I guess :-)

2.5 stars.
MartinB
Sun, Dec 20, 2015, 6:04pm (UTC -6)
Using the Jem'Hadar ships on the holodeck is NOT a continuity error. Starfleet encountered the Dominion in 2370 when the USS Odyssey was destroyed. Voyager launched in 2371. Even if you don't know the dates, you can date the episodes by the uniforms. Voyager has the TNG movie commbadge from the start. DS9 didn't get those until the Defiant arrived at the station, and it was only assigned there because of the Dominion threat. Chakotay calling the Dominion "a new race" is not especially problematic either, given that the Maquis formed before the Dominion became widely known, and while we don't know exactly when Chakotay joined the Maquis, it must have been fairly early on to have been an important figure within the year the Maquis was formed and the Voyager mission. So its clear he would have been largely, if not completely in the dark on info about the Dominion when major contacts started to be made, and reading up on that stuff while in the Delta Quadrant, a galaxy away from Dominion space would have been pointless, espcially when they all knew they"d be coming up on the Borg eventually.

I bet Paris was relieved when Neelix through the pasta on him. At least he didn't have to eat it!
Diamond Dave
Sat, Jan 9, 2016, 3:10pm (UTC -6)
Because the most annoying and least desired story on Voyager - the Kes/Paris/Neelix love triangle - needed a whole episode to resolve. Deep joy! And, what a surprise, in true Sesame Street style they all learned to cooperate and left as friends.

Not too much to like in here. Some good character moments I suppose but overall it's pretty much the same contrivances we're starting to see regularly in the story set up - I'd agree with the comment above that these transporter blocking fields are getting very tedious. 1.5 stars.
David
Mon, Jan 25, 2016, 12:54am (UTC -6)
Yet another shuttle crash episode. Also, Planet Hell sounds like some kind of twisted Goth amusement park.
George Monet
Sat, Aug 13, 2016, 11:40pm (UTC -6)
The Kes/Neelix/Paris love triangle would have worked if Kes had ended up with Paris. Neelix also felt like the perverted older uncle trying to diddle his young teenage niece so that relationship has always been incredibly disgusting and Kes changing to Paris was a much needed change.
mephyve
Wed, Aug 17, 2016, 7:23pm (UTC -6)
Paris and Neelix's brewing conflict comes to a head. It predictably ends in a predictably 'let's strand them together so they have to work things out' episode
AA
Mon, Aug 22, 2016, 12:52pm (UTC -6)
This was definitely written like a children's show. Jim Henson creature puppet, mild conflict that's resolved too easily, "let's work together" plot.
Strejda
Fri, Feb 3, 2017, 10:55am (UTC -6)
While it is appreciated they realized Neelix/Kes/Paris love triangle needed resolving, they did it by concentrating everything annoying about it into one ball of awful.

I think the main problem with the episode is that the conflict is just way too one-sided. And I'm not sure the episode even realizes it. Maybe if Neelix just had an argument with Tom, or if he was the one trying to be professional or even apologetic while Tom was the one who couldn't let things go, that might work. But as it is, Neelix, after acting like paranoid and possesive asshole, outright assaults Tom in public, after Tom was shown to be a decent guy not even considering to put moves on Kes and trying his best to stay away from her. And the way it is done, I do think we are obviously not meant to think Neelix is right, but we are meant to understand why he did it, due to insecurity but again, he assaulted Tom in public and yelled he's gonna kill him, because he could not stand to see them sitting with their backs to each other. After Kes wanted him to be father of her only child. And he still acts like he's in the right long afterwards.

And I know, characters shoud be flawed but going by what we have seen of him so far, what are even his character strenghts? I do buy his love for Kes is genuine, but is clearly connected to some of his awful behavior, from his paranoid jealousy to him putting her safety above everything else, which is more understandable, but he clearly is convinced he knows better than anyone else what to do, even risking lives of Voyager crew in the pilot. Hell, he acts all the time like he knows everything better than anyone. He does show some insights, especially early on, but his biggest contribution so far is him outsmarting Kazon in Initiantions, which have not been shown to be terribly inteligent anyway and was undermining actual person in authority. Even if this plot line was given to an otherwise pefectly likeable character it would be a disservice but it's especially awful choice for Neelix,
Del_Duio
Fri, Feb 3, 2017, 12:56pm (UTC -6)
"And I know, characters shoud be flawed but going by what we have seen of him so far, what are even his character strenghts? I "

Um...Talaxian root pie?
There aren't many, Mr. Vulcan.
Ildaf
Fri, Feb 10, 2017, 12:11am (UTC -6)
@Del_Duio
How about a leola root broth!

====

Of course the transporter problem, radiation, interference, and whole yadda yadda is just contrived setup, and an obvious attempt to put Paris-Neelix to resolve their problem. But once that is overlook, I find the show is enjoyable, and at least stay true to the character traits we know. We know Paris is the best pilot, and Neelix is the best for food resource.

I also think is about the time the show put an end for Neelix annoying overjealosy attitude. It's excessive and overbearing. I guess they recognize that and try to solve in this episode (as Michael Piller said after he voice his criticsm Neelix continue potrayal as Buffon per last episode 'Twisted').

Considering not much value on the overall stories, and we're pretty much know what the show direction going to be from the start (reconciliation of Paris-Neelix). I find the scene, act, and dialogue is a well-done, not stray-out from their character, and manage to do their goal just fine while avoid overdoing it (by having some live saving situation like Tuvok in 'Learning Curve' or other silly forced situation).
McNeill and Ethan Phillips doing a respectable job here, and I really feel sorry for Phillips that his character doesn't get much chance or develop further (doomed to be annoying character and comic relief for much part).

I'm a bit curious Jammers, you rate 'Learning Curve' better than this one. While i think that episode is way much more silly and contrived without so much character development anyway.

While Jammers think the alien is uninteresting by cruise in, fire their phasers a few times, check their nest, and leave. I think it's refreshing. Their attribute is quite easily be associated to a defensive nature of species protect their hatchling.

Leave the egg unattended also something reptilian do in real-nature environment, I defenitely do not think that strains credulity Jamers. Tortoise is even known for travelling hundreds kilometer back to their born habitat just to hatch. So I appreciate it the alien relate to our known nature of reptilian, and for once I do think the writers do the homework.

I'm also grateful the script avoid the another hard-headed-alien of the week and save by the last second cliche. So overall for me it's a good character development episodes, especially for Neelix.
The one grudge I have is the annoying shaking camera effect, but it's fairly a minor, and thank god only on the shuttle scene.

Some insert-joke that still related to the plot also help :
"Ï'm a doctor, not voyeur" -- Doc to Janeway
"How delightful. Why I can quote you autopsy report from duels as far back as 1538" -- Doct to Kes
"And you expect to take care this thing until what? It graduates from high school, college?" -- Paris to Neelix

Enjoyable and refreshing episodes for me, also a good character development
3 (***) stars
Mertov
Wed, Mar 15, 2017, 2:53am (UTC -6)
I remember watching this episode when it originally aired, and saying to myself "That's it! I wish Neelix, the most annoying Trek character ever created, would disappear from the show soon. His jealousy rages were really painful to watch (both as story elements and as acting skills) and contributed nothing more that the "Pfffffft" effect to the viewers.
Jammer's review is spot on. Dismal episode, enough of Neelix-focused episodes, enough of spending few minutes wach episode watching his pre-pre-teenage disposition in matters concerning Kes..

Speaking of Kes, Jennifer Lien's acting did not help the episode either...

As a final note, I'll ask again: Were Kes and Neelix (and the actors playing them) SERIOUSLY the best actors/characters the showrunners could come up with to represent two unknown Delta Quadrant aliens to join the crew permanently? Really? REALLY??

Pfffffffft.....
Startrekwatcher
Tue, Jul 25, 2017, 12:05pm (UTC -6)
2 stars. Absolutely dumb hour. Not a single good scene to be had anywhere. I could care less about the contrived Paris/Kes/Neelix triangle or their petty bickering or the uninspired aliens and their shallow little story. I'm shocked such an episode was made
William B
Tue, Sep 5, 2017, 11:39am (UTC -6)
As annoying as Neelix's jealousy is, I will give him some slack in-universe for the fact that we know that his entire family died in a WMD massacre, so it's no wonder that he's as clingy about the woman he loves as he is. Still, it's obvious that Neelix should not be "morale officer" and, at least, needs counselling, when his jealousy gets to the "I'LL KILL YOU" stage with Paris for no reason. This was done publicly and I guess it's...good?...that no one told Chakotay or Janeway about the death-threat-rage-attack, but it seems hard to believe that this didn't get around, and it does make Neelix look totally unstable. I don't want to overstate it -- Paris can handle himself and Neelix probably knows that -- but dude, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. In general, it's very hard to care about either Neelix's intense jealousy -- in this relationship in which he *is* so much older than her (and not just because of the Ocampan short lifetime, but even as a fraction of their lifetimes) and pedestal-izes her as a naive innocent -- or Paris' hormonal attraction to Kes; if we're supposed to see it as love rather than a crush, the development is not there. And the episode's ending where Paris and Neelix talk things out ends up feeling kind of uncomfortable, where the two seem to conflate Paris' having been a coward and unreliable with his being interested in pursuing a relationship with a non-single woman, and only *eventually* admitting Kes' own feelings (i.e. that she loves Neelix anyway) into it; for much of the discussion they really seem to be talking about Kes as if she's Neelix's property which Paris is tempted to "poach." I'm not saying Paris shouldn't restrain himself from pursuing Kes because she's in a relationship, but the "I won't because I respect you" discussion sort of takes Kes out of it (as opposed to, "I won't because she is seeing someone else and thus is probably not interested"), especially when there really *are* reasons for Paris not to respect Neelix. Still, I guess it's some development for Paris given that he had that thing with the married woman and was labelled a murderer for it, so, points for development. And as people pointed out, the dialogue and Jennifer Lien's performance surrounding Kes' feelings about the two men fighting over her are pretty bad.

I was all set to hate the cheesy "people bond over caring for a baby" plot, but it ended up being cute in a weird sort of way and it won me over, despite my better judgment. It's a bit of a 3 Godfathers (or, for a more Trek-appropriate reference, Three Men and a Baby, which was directed by Leonard Nimoy) story and I think that Neelix was especially concerned with protecting the life form does a bit to mitigate all the unlikeable traits that Neelix has been showing the past few episodes. I like also that Paris reluctantly agrees but that it sort of goes against his instincts to run. There is some good dialogue on the planet, too ("B minus." "That's not very encouraging."). I still don't think the episode overall is particularly good, nor is the characterization that exceptional in the final scenes, but I guess I'm not immune to a little cuteness and it makes the episode a little more palatable despite a really weak first half and only a so-so second half. I guess 1.5 stars -- but I could maybe go to 2. At least the Neelix/Kes/Paris triangle is over now, right?
William B
Tue, Sep 5, 2017, 11:40am (UTC -6)
It's interesting that my reaction to which parts of the episode "work" and which don't are basically opposite of Jammer's -- I found Neelix's jealousy interminable and the after-school special on the planet sort of okay. I think the point of agreement is that *both* halves of the episode are pretty bad ideas, but I feel like the first half was executed badly as well and the second half was just as dumb but executed okay.
Skreekle
Mon, Sep 25, 2017, 4:27am (UTC -6)
Another terrible episode.

Neelix is the worst character in Star Trek.

They go hide in some cave. That cave somehow has different air than anywhere else? It has none of the nutrients/toxins that the outside air has? Makes no sense. And if their were no nutrients in there why would the aliens lay their eggs in there? So they would starve after they hatch?

Nothing in this episode works for me. I don't even want to talk about it anymore. Ugh...

1/2 star
Sean Hagins
Wed, Aug 15, 2018, 9:28pm (UTC -6)
Again, I don't understand the comments here. And as far as Neelix's jealousy, I think your relationships must be different than what I am used to: Neelix's feelings were totally understandable at least if they were married. Tom actually was developing feelings for her, and I know that typically a married woman (or man) wouldn't be alone with a member of the opposite sex the way she and Tom were.

With this type of behaviour, I can see why there are so many divorces among people

As far as the episode goes, this is one that I remember watching back when it came out. I think it was enjoyable seeing the two make up, and the catalyst (the hatching of the egg and taking care of the young bird/creature) was endearing
Springy
Tue, Aug 21, 2018, 7:13am (UTC -6)
Tom's "I won't because I respect you" aspect was majorily ooky, like Kes was owned by Neelix. "Because I respect your relationship," would have worked much better. But then, the whole "one partner is consistently crazy, crazy jealous, but it's still an ok relationship" thing is dated and ooky, in general. We get some explanation for both Neelix's crazy (his trauma) and Kes's attachment and naivete, so that part works. It's the part where the show seems to be expecting us to be ok with the relationship, see it as true love, that doesn't work.

So, overall, the ep is ok in many aspects, but the idea that Tom and Neelix and Kes seem to decide Neelix's insanity can now be set aside with a wink and a nod, ruins it for me.

Blech, please let the jealousy stuff be over.
Rahul
Wed, Nov 7, 2018, 6:30pm (UTC -6)
This is a lame, trite episode -- it did feel a bit like Sesame Street but it's not all bad as some of the earlier interactions were sort of amusing and I liked Neelix's concern for the hatchling. But of course this type of episode will never really test the limits of his concern for the hatchling -- the ship rescues them just in time.
Kes was OK here being caught in between Neelix and Tom and being concerned about possibly losing both of them -- her jumble of emotions.

I suppose it had been building - this Neelix/Kes/Paris triangle as a sideshow on VOY and so here comes "Parturition" to resolve it. I think it's fine that Paris admits he feels something for Kes and goes to Harry first as a buddy. But the whole Neelix/Tom confession scene at the end was just too trite and predictable. Put the 2 malcontents in a situation where they have to care for a baby and the problem is solved -- not good enough for Trek.

As for the aliens, they're just more random aliens of the week -- nothing special about them. Why no verbal contact between the ships was made is strange. It's just disappointing to see the extent the show goes to to create these aliens and ultimately does very little with them. Seems odd that these aliens have a powerful starship and yet their babies hatch in a cave...

Neelix's over-the-top jealousy is kind of funny -- maybe this is a trait of his race regarding their mates. I think there should be more such traits among the aliens that can annoy humans more...

2 stars for "Parturition" -- plenty of the VOY cliches of transporters not working, shuttle crashes, random aliens of the week all to resolve the Neelix/Kes/Paris relationship triangle - which is hardly compelling. It's an overly feelgood episode that is too much so for Trek, I think.
Elliott
Thu, Nov 8, 2018, 8:44am (UTC -6)
Teaser : **.5, 5%

Kes and Paris are on a shuttle mission...no that can't be it. Paris is too calm and borderline condescending. He's actually got Kes in the holodeck and he definitely has that Marseilles charm turned on for this little shuttle simulation. We see that lurking in the shadows by the holodeck—no seriously—is Neelix, looking frightened.

We cut to Janeway's ready room where Chakotay reports that they've found a planet with likely food reserves to replenish the supply we had no idea was low until just now. Chakotay explains that this planet is covered in some sort of weird vapours and seismic or something. Janeway and her new haircut suspect it's a planet early in its evolution, primeval. Incidentally, Janeway makes the comment that she might reconsider setting course for “Planet Hell” if they had any information on this region. As I'm doing these reviews, this comment is fine, but thanks to the absurd reshuffling of episodes, “Twisted” aired the week before—you know, when that alien green space ring/sphere/party-crasher dumped several gigaquads of info into their databanks? Thanks, producers! Also, it helps not having that episode, with Neelix serving cake on the bridge, right before this one, too. Not exactly riveting, but it's a competent teaser.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Inspired by his recent trip to San Francisco, Harry is playing a little Mozart on his clarinet when Tom chimes the door to his quarters. Tom asks Harry for a little mood music (ahem). Tom confesses that he is, in fact, in love with Kes.

PARIS: A whole crew full of women and I have to fall for the one I can't have. Why do I do this to my self?
KIM: If you ask me, I say you enjoy it.
PARIS: Enjoy it?
KIM: Only thing that makes sense. You've been doing the same thing to yourself your whole life. Setting yourself up for rejection. You must enjoy playing the part.

As with “Non Sequitur,” the Paris/Kim dynamic is pretty amusing to watch, complete with good comic timing on MacNeil's part. Wang even gets some decent moments, coyly prodding Tom with his clarinet while he plays (ahem).

The EMH calls up to the bridge as the approach the vapour planet. He's been monitoring ship functions and has prepared an ointment of some kind to deal with the bad mojo. This triggers another patented Robert Picardo line:

JANEWAY: Tell me, just how often do you eavesdrop?
EMH : I am simply trying to monitor issues involving the health of the crew, Captain....the Emergency Medical Programme establishes comm. links with all key areas of the ship, and I have, on occasion...I am a Doctor, not a voyeur. I am programmed to be discreet.

Well, that out of the way, Torres reports that the bad mojo is going to prevent transport and make shuttle missions dangerous. So, I guess Janeway is going to land the ship and...nah, we already did that one.

Kim and Paris end their little rendezvous for a meal in the mess hall. They spot Kes while Neelix scowls from the kitchen—yes, seriously. Through their teeth, Paris tells his paramour that he'd rather not sit with her than make things awkward. Neelix makes nice (poorly) by offering up his hair-spaghetti...Kim is called to the bridge...Paris tries to act pleasant...Neelix just about spits in his hair pasta with rage...Kes notes their behaviour and storms out...do yourself a favour by the way and watch this scene for the music. It's really excellent. Neelix confronts Paris over his perceived indiscretion, prompting a food fight, complete with death threats and quippy puns. What's this show about again?

Janeway calls both directly to the ready room. She inspects their spaghettied clothes without comment and just kind of sips her coffee. If you think about this insanity for too long, your head will hurt, but honestly, Mulgrew plays things so well that it's genuinely amusing to watch her scrutinise her crewmen. She assigns the pair to scout the planet together. I wonder where this is going...but I have to say, despite the sitcomy triteness of the scene (it's definitely there), between Frakes' camera work and the actors' timing, I can't help but chuckle at Janeway's curt “Am I detecting a personal problem here?...Solve it.”

Act 2 **, 17%

After the afternoon briefing, Kes confronts Neelix about the food fight, but Neelix is his typical mansplaining, infantilising, condescending self and refuses to talk about the incident. This behaviour finally seems to be getting to the two-year-old as she reports to sickbay for her shift in quite the mood. I hate to keep harping on this point but it's true. This is total sitcom bullshit, and I want to hate it...but little character moments keep things light enough to be genuinely amusing:

KES: Neelix and Tom Paris had a physical fight over me.
EMH: How delightful.
KES: Delightful?
EMH: You should consider it a high compliment. Throughout history, men have fought over the love of a woman. Why, I can quote you autopsy reports from duels as far back as 1538.
KES: That's not funny.
EMH: It's not meant to be. You've always been interested in autopsies.

What the Doctor lacks in discretion, he makes up for in observing human behaviour. He notes to Kes that she's in denial about Tom's obvious attraction to her. Finally, he suggests letting her suitors sort things out for themselves. We won't hold it against the Doctor for giving her bad advice (anything other than “dump Neelix immediately”) since he's actually younger than she is.

Aboard Shuttle Immaturity, Neelix is busy making passive aggressive remarks to the man he threatened to kill while Paris gives techno-flight status updates. Well this stupid crap is interrupted by—try not to be surprised—the bad mojo fucking with the shuttle. After some shaky cam, this leads to...another shuttle crash! (That's three for three this season)

Act 3 : **, 17%

Well, the pair survive, itching and bitching. They exit the shuttle and continue their bickering, full of bile, rage and sarcasm.

On the Voyager, Kim stops by Kes' quarters to give her an update. She's feeling guilty and angry...the scene doesn't deserve the performance Jennifer Lien is putting into it, but it is definitely the most interesting thing going on here. This triteness interrupted by things shaking and Chakotay announcing “battlestations” over the comm.

Tom and Neelix hole themselves up in the cave set and attempt some character development. We get a little more backstory on Tom's Academy days. Owen Paris was teaching there at the time and was especially hard on his son. Neelix reveals that his insecurities about Kes stem from a rather pernicious inferiority complex. Despite how annoying Neelix is most episodes (something that did NOT have to be so pronounced in execution), it actually makes some sense that he feels the way he does. As a young man, he hid from military service, half-convinced that he was staging a protest, but mostly just cowering from combat (not that I would blame him for this). This behaviour spared his life but saw his entire family exterminated. After that, he drifted, dealing in junk and...water? without any direction, scruples or baths. At some point, he hooked up with Kes, a remarkably naïve but intelligent and curious young woman who could not possibly know how Neelix measured up against the galaxy of eligible partners who might desire her. Finding himself aboard the Voyager, Neelix has creature comforts and security he never would have hoped for, but this puts into stark relief how pathetic he truly is, and exposes Kes to a ship full of genuine explorers and highly-accomplished people. Tom, walking hormone that he is, would spur any man in Neelix' position to jealousy. This doesn't excuse his behaviour, but frankly, Neelix never had the opportunity to grow up; his childishness is pitiable. For his part, I think Tom is struggling with the realisation that Kes is a remarkable person who attracts him—and whom he attracts. She is saddled to this man-child and basically stuck through a combination of naïvety and tradition (Ocampa mate for life). See, Tom *also* has some ego issues to work through, thanks to his overbearing father and meandering life (c.f. “Non Sequitur”). Trek tends to make their male protagonists with daddy issues heavy womanisers (Kirk, Riker, Bashir and Paris). For both men, a woman like Kes validates their existence and ameliorates their self-loathing. None of this is healthy, but it certainly feels real. I just wish the characterisation didn't have to be so fucking cartoonish.

The pair hear some noises and Neelix detects some lifesigns on his tricorder. Meanwhile, the Voyager is still being shot at by a vessel, which adopts a defensive posture between the ship and the planet. Neelix and Tom encounter...a nest of eggs...oh jeez. One of them hatches and reveals an alien pterodactyl puppet baby. … … … …

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

On the bridge, we get a slew of technobabble prep for trying to outwit the alien ship, mitigated slightly by Tuvok's acerbic remarks. Meanwhile, Tom and Neelix determine that the baby bird is sentient...thankfully, Neelix doesn't suggest putting it on the lunch menu; instead he wants to take it with them since it was they who sealed off this cave from the parent alien bird lizard. The baby starts shivering, despite being cold-blooded. Whatever. Can't pass any opportunity for triteness, can we? There's some action nonsense in orbit, we're walking...the pair of adopted parents determine that the nutrient source on the planet is actually in the bad mojo vapour. What a twist!

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

Welp...Tom and Neelix save the puppet's life and endure the vapours together. Neelix finally, FINALLY manages to apologise for his insane behaviour. And Tom admits that he is attracted to his girlfriend.

PARIS: Everything you heard those guys saying about me, well, it was true. But it's not who I am anymore. At least not who I want to be. This upside down mission to the wrong side of the galaxy has given me a second chance, and I don't intend to blow it.

The insight into Paris is good. Paris treating Kes like a piece of meat, and the two men sniggering about how hot she is...not so much. But again, I have to give some credit. These guys are being portrayed as extremely flawed with damaged egos and unhealthy relationships with women, so, while I object to the sexism on principle, it fits the characters at this point. Anyway, the alien mother returns for its hatchling, there's some cheesy “we're all friends now” dialogue back on the Voyager and it's over.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

Another stupid story rescued by the actors and the director. As seems to have become the norm for this show, the plot is totally perfunctory and dumb, the character work is decent and the performances rather excellent. Depending on the ratio of these elements at any given time, the episode meanders from fairly entertaining to aggravatingly stupid to tepid. While I am glad the Neelix is jealous arc is finally over, I think the writers did a great disservice to Kes by essentially writing around her. Lien's portrayal of the character reflects a very accelerated maturing process and I want to see that reflected in her relationships beyond getting a bit peeved with the Doctor. Then again, the more I think about it, Paris, Neelix and Kes are all suffering from forms of arrested development. It's not illogical that they should be in this petty love triangle together, but I would like very much for them to grow up already.

Final Score : **

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