Star Trek: Voyager
"Once Upon a Time"
Air date: 11/11/1998
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by John Krechmer
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"In accepting the inevitable, one finds peace [in death]."
"If that's another Vulcan saying, Tuvok, I'll stick with 'live long and prosper.'"
— Tuvok and Paris
Nutshell: Not a total loss, but ill-conceived. Easily the season's weakest episode so far.
New Voyager staff writer Michael Taylor seems to enjoy looking for the emotional truth in his stories, as evident in his previous work on DS9. His stories center around personal torment as caused by the deaths of others, whether it was Jake's father in "The Visitor," Odo's guilt over allowing Bajoran executions in "Things Past," Sisko facing the "death" of his Federation morals in "In the Pale Moonlight," or even (admittedly, to a lesser degree) Kira reflecting on the death of Bareil in "Resurrection."
Alas, Taylor's first Voyager entry, "Once Upon a Time," doesn't find that truth. This episode fails for most of the reasons "The Visitor" was so fantastic. It has too much manufactured sentiment based on tired clichés, ws, whereas "Visitor" came alive and rang true with a strong, focused emotional core.
"Once Upon a Time" begins with a Shuttle Crash™—or, more specifically, a Delta Flyer Crash [TM pending]—when Tuvok, Paris, and Ensign Wildman (Nancy Hower) are caught in an ion storm and forced to crash-land on a planetoid, where they find themselves buried under tons of rock. I don't have a problem with the loss of a shuttle (even if it's casually brushed aside as no big deal) as long as it's part of a greater purpose. But I am sick and tired of the silly setting where we're supposed to care about characters who are bottled up and stranded inside a shuttle.
Maybe it's time, for lack of better things to say about this plot device, to recap the times characters have been forced into "intense" or "survival" situations because of a shuttle crashing or blowing up, usually on a "desolate" planetoid. Let's see—there was Chakotay and Kar in "Initiations"; Paris and Neelix in "Parturition"; Tuvok and a red-shirt in "Innocence"; Janeway and Chakotay in "Coda"; Chakotay in "Unity"; Tuvok and Neelix in "Rise"; Torres and Paris in "Day of Honor"; and Chakotay in "Nemesis." (If I've left any out, that's okay—you get the picture.) This of course doesn't count shuttles destroyed or disabled where characters were rescued by a last-second beam-out, such as "Non Sequitur" or even "Drone" from three weeks ago.
Suffice it to say the shuttle crash is a firmly established plot device in Voyager lore. Hell, it's so established it should have its own internal classifications. I'm waiting for the day Janeway turns to one of her officers (one who is not stranded in a shuttle, naturally) and gives the order to begin the procedures for a "class 3 shuttle salvage operation." Perhaps the class distinction could be determined by who is on board the shuttle. A "1" might mean Chakotay; a "2" might mean Paris and Neelix; a "3" might mean...
But seriously, folks, who for a second thought the away team would not be rescued at the Last Possible Moment, when oxygen was running out—two minutes left, one minute left, 30 seconds left. Please. Is this supposed to constitute suspense? I would hope there's more to the story than the suspense angle, and fortunately for "Once Upon a Time" there is, but why even bother milking such a foregone conclusion for such false excitement? Granted, the setting brings about the story's real issues back aboard the Voyager, but on its own the setting is virtually worthless. I say get on with the real story and quit dumbing it down with "suspense" scenes in an attempt to cover up the fact your primary storyline is in essence only mediocre.
The primary story is also a derivative concept, looking at the situation of how to break news to a child that her mother might never come home again. While derivative and obvious at times, it isn't completely unpalatable. Ensign Wildman's daughter Naomi (Scarlett Pomers), who like all Trek children seems to be much older than she possibly can be (she shouldn't even be three years old), plays a significant role in the story, and Neelix provides a surprisingly watchable center to the story.
Some of this angle of the story worked decently. I thought Janeway and Neelix's discussion on informing Naomi about the crash was one of the episode's highlights. It's nice to be able to take Neelix halfway seriously for a change, and the sequence in Janeway's ready room was performed with sincerity. The use of Neelix's past also helped bring a more understandable personal angle to Neelix's dread for Naomi's potential loss.
I also thought the writers' depiction of Naomi was nicely conceived. As Janeway puts it, "she's an astute girl," and her perceptiveness makes sense. Children are nave, but not stupid, and the episode seems to know that.
On the other hand, the fantasy holonovel sequences didn't do much for me. While I try to keep an open mind, these silly holo-characters are not the reason I tune into Trek, and the amount of screen time devoted to "Flotter" (Wallace Langham) and "Trevis" (Justin Lewis) and their goofy hijinks was just too much for its own good. The episode seemed far too proud of its cleverness in creating cute characters that would appeal to the very young demographic of Voyager viewers (if there is one), than it seemed interested in analyzing Naomi's struggles as the only child growing up on a starship. I can understand that Naomi would like these guys, but I can't in all honesty get past the fact that I don't really care.
Even though some of the Neelix/Naomi sentiments work okay, none of this, unfortunately, can save a story that's so fundamentally tired. There's never any doubt the crew members will be rescued, so the scene where the stranded officers make final statements to their loved ones is merely manipulation that rings false. And it's not interesting because the characters aren't permitted to say anything interesting. I did like the idea of Tuvok making his final statements in writing, but Tom's last words to B'Elanna are lame bittersweet jokes about Captain Proton and leftover pizza, with the disappointingly un-heartfelt sign-off, "So long." Talk about affection.
Wildman's final message to her daughter was also disappointing and simplistically conveyed—heavy on TV sentiment but lacking in common sense. (I found myself asking, "Is that all she has to say?", and then realized this would've worked better if done mostly off-screen.)
And, after a harrowing experience of almost dying, when Ensign Wildman was reunited with her daughter, I must say I was so moved I wanted to throw up.
Not to be a completely cynical, cold-hearted person who can only derive an emotional response from tragedy and darkness, but this predictable ending was just so sweet, syrupy, and happy with itself being happy that I couldn't help but feel that the episode would've been more interesting and poignant if Ensign Wildman actually had died from the injuries she sustained in the crash. Consider the implications: As Naomi's godfather, Neelix would suddenly have the responsibilities of a full-time parent thrust upon him, and we might actually get to see a whole new side to a currently underdeveloped character.
But, nah, we can't have that kind of unhappy ending ... it would be way too much of a downer.
I'm not saying I wanted to see Samantha Wildman so casually killed off (she could potentially offer a unique perspective as the only parent with a child aboard the ship if she were utilized more than once or twice a year), but in the confines of this particular tale, her death might actually have been more meaningful to the story's underlying point—namely, that Voyager is a dangerous place where people can and do die—than an oh-so-happy reunion.
But I'm just throwing ideas around here. "Once Upon a Time," which has a few palatable moments between Neelix and Naomi, isn't a total loss, but with its hopelessly dumb plot and predictably thin payoff, I can't shake the feeling that this episode was flawed from the moment of conception—even though it pulled off a few reasonable isolated moments. There's probably a story somewhere in this material that could be compelling, but "Once Upon a Time" doesn't find it.
Next week: Voyager celebrates its 100th episode with a time-travel story.
Previous episode: In the Flesh
Next episode: Timeless
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82 comments on this post
Thu, Jan 17, 2008, 9:38am (UTC -5)
Good job mom
Mon, Jan 21, 2008, 11:07am (UTC -5)
And, considering the "rapid-growth-factor": Voyager could have been the first series were this actually could have made sense if - yes, if Naomi would have been the child of Kes and Neelix, concepted in 1st or 2nd seasons "Elogium".
Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 3:42pm (UTC -5)
mlk: I beg to differ. She's cute and has a character that I have fallen in love with. It's indeed no good she is missing friends of similar ages.
(For those who don't understand, no, I wouldn't dream of anything of her age, I was just saying that I liked her character a lot)
Jakob: She's actually older than Kes when she came aboard Voyager, so that would make no sense at all. In "Mortal Coil" it is said that it's due to her being half-Ktarian. As found on Memory Alpha:
It is mentioned in this episode that Ktarians, like Klingons, are prone to growing faster than Humans.
Thu, Feb 25, 2010, 6:30pm (UTC -5)
Do they even like each other?
Tue, Mar 9, 2010, 7:14pm (UTC -5)
Neelix's desire to protect Naomi, and the pain he showed at memories of his family was moving and believable, as well as Samantha's reunion with Naomi at the end. Tom's farewell, was it poor writing or was he just irritated and exhausted? I will admit Voyager did not do character driven stories nearly as well as DS9, but it still had its moments.
Mon, Jun 28, 2010, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
Yet again: Too much trite human "drama," introspection and exploration of "feelings" and shit, at the expense of the sci-fi aspect.
I hope I manage to wade thru the other half of the show but it's not looking good...
Mon, Nov 29, 2010, 2:29pm (UTC -5)
Ah the classic Trek miracle growth child. She's 3 and using words like "re-liquify" (meanwhile Molly O'Brien went from 0 to about 6 in a year in TNG then stayed at 6 - time travel episode aside - for the run of DS9). Strange stuff! If they would've said something about accelerated growth characteristics of her father or whatever it might not seem so grating.
There were some moving moments, but I must admit to being a bit soft with these things. I particularly liked Janeway's chat with Neelix in the ready room - the delicate mix of assertiveness and kindness made her seem deserving of the title of Captain in a way that hadn't really come across since Picard, and that's something I wouldn't mind seeing more of. It's also nice to see her coming out of her shell again after the first 3-4 episodes of the season when she was looking fed up and barking 2 word orders; if I didn't know better when it comes to Voyager I'd think it was a subtle echo and gradual recovery from her depression/breakdown in the first episode.
The holodeck characters were irritating on a level not seen since the infamous Lwaxana/Alexander TNG episode. No more, please! No more! (In the style of Zorn from Encounter at Farpoint)
Tom's farewell seemed perfectly in character to me. His character is mostly irritating, but still :) Lieutenant Sitcom would be cracking jokes right to the end of the universe so it didn't seem off to me.
Generally a likable episode if you don't expect too much, as is par for the course of Voyager as a whole at this point, and at least had some nice moving character moments.
Wed, Jun 22, 2011, 4:40am (UTC -5)
"Neelix looks after Naomi Wildman when her mother is injured on an away mission."
Barf. A Neelix episode AND a little kid episode. How annoying could you get? But, because I'd like to eventually be able to say I've seen every episode of Star Trek, I watched it, and you know it wasn't too bad. It wasn't a good episode, but given how horribly annoying it could have been, I've got no complaints.
As far as Flotter goes, I actually thought it was kind of interesting that Samantha, Harry Kim AND Janeway all apparently played with the same holo-stories as kids. One of those rare moments on Star Trek where we see a snippet of 24th century culture. I wish they would have done that a bit more.
Another thing this episode calls to mind is how impoverished Voyager really was in terms of supporting characters. Who's there been?, Samantha Wildman, Michael Jones, Seska, Vorik...Naomi... Leonardo da Vinci, I guess. Um, I'm halfway through season 5 and that's it. (I guess there's the Delany sisters in stellar cartography that we've never actually seen). Voyager's a small ship...in reality, everyone should have been thick as thieves by the fifth year - that clique of main characters just isn't realistic at all. Adding a handful more familiar faces in the mess hall or engineering could have really added a richer dimensionality to their milieu and storytelling.
Mon, Jul 25, 2011, 4:00am (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 8, 2011, 8:56pm (UTC -5)
My 5-year-old daughter has been watching through Voyager and definitely did find this episode appealing. ;) Her favorite episode so far. Not exactly highest praise, though--her prior favorite was "Tuvix."
Mon, Nov 7, 2011, 6:43pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 5, 2012, 11:02pm (UTC -5)
Samantha does appear again after this, she's also in "Fury" in season 6. Altogether she appeared in eight episodes over the course of seven seasons and was mentioned several other times as well.
As far as the episode was concerned, eh, I think everybody's being a bit hard on it. Far from being one of the best, of course, but I thought it was a solid "average."
Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 9:41am (UTC -5)
Tue, May 1, 2012, 1:44am (UTC -5)
And it works. My daughters loved this episode and they adored Naomi. They also loved Neelix and Seven, who would forever in our house come to be known as "The Borg Lady." They were also intrigued by the idea of Flotter and Friends and wished they had a holodeck to play with instead of a dusty old Game Cube.
This is by no means a brilliant episode, but it's a fun one for me and it brings back fun family memories.
Wed, May 2, 2012, 7:03am (UTC -5)
I would have liked to have seen more episodes with Naomi and her mother...it would have added a different view to what the Voyager crew was going through...
Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 12:55am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 7:31am (UTC -5)
Are you sure you're talking about the right episode? Sounds like you watched "The Visitor" on DS9, not "Once Upon a Time" on Voyager.
Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 2:34pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 3:45pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 2, 2013, 10:04am (UTC -5)
I'm all for genuinely emotional, humanly raw and warm stories that have a beating heart at their centres....unfortunately this was cold mechanical "drama" anything but. Also I hate cuteness, or at least Star Trek trying to be cute (Cost Of Living, anyone?). 1/4.
Sun, Aug 4, 2013, 7:18pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 9, 2013, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
"The warp core of a cell!"
I liked this episode for the way Neelix and Naomi were used and the chemistry between those two characters. I also enjoyed seeing Samantha Wildman again and am disappointed they didn't use her more.
The holodeck scenes were visually stunning, and looked just like you would expect a children's holodeck program to look--very lush and colorful. But the Flotter (it rhymes with water, get it, hahaha) theme became inane quickly.
One scene that was really cool was when Naomi wondered onto the bridge. We got to see the bridge and hear the captain talking from a naive outsider's perspective.
But yeah, they just built the Delta Flyer what, the very last episode? And they crashed it already? It would have actually been vastly superior storytelling to have the crash been due to some type of design or construction flaw, rather than an ion storm, considering they built it in less than a week. It would have not only added continuity and made it felt more serious rather than a cliche plot device.
A minor gripe in the grand scheme of things, but I had a little trouble believing Janeway ran that holodeck program as a little girl. Surely holodecks were in their infancy then?
Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 11:16am (UTC -5)
On another note..Naomi's mom showed up so rarely that for a long time I thought she'd been killed off in season 1.
Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 11:17am (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 11:23am (UTC -5)
I know it's nitpicking, but it is cannon: the Enterprise NX-01 was the first Federation star ship to encounter replication technology. Furthermore, replicators are based on transporter technology, which was well established in Kirk's day. I think it's safe to say that by the time of the Enterprise B they had replicators. Holodeck tech couldn't have been too far off, and in some ways would be simpler than replicator tech. (aside perhaps from the sophisticated AI required to make semi-sentient holograms)
Ok, gonna go get a life now :P
Sun, Sep 15, 2013, 5:22pm (UTC -5)
On the big HD screen there were amazing colors in the fairy tale land that may not have not been seen earlier. To me the story seemed very Ozish. Flotter (flowing water mix?) character was the scarecrow, Trevis reminded me of the tin man (somehwat), and the fire ogre was very wizardish.
The rest of the story? Killing off the mother would have been interesting. I thought that maybe some kind of development between seven and the child would have been interesting.
I did like the child's point of view of the bridge, as well. The rest of the story... well it could have been better.
Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 7:33pm (UTC -5)
Just wanted to say that the Delta Flyer was not lost. They couldn't detect any lifesigns inside the shuttle to lock on to so they beamed the whole lot (shuttle & all) back to the launch bay.
Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 6:24pm (UTC -5)
It set out to let us see Voyager through the eyes of a child, and I enjoyed that fresh perspective. I think it was very well written, very well directed (especially the scenes involving Naomi) and very well acted.
I really liked the addition of the "classic holonovel that every child knows and loves". It just made sense. The fact that a character in the program recognized Sam Wildman - now all grown up - was very sweet (was that a tip of the hat to Peter Pan?) - although entirely illogical.
The girl playing Naomi was absolutely wonderful! Stellar performance and screen presence!
A lot of details centering around her perception of the world where great - such as her attitude towards 7 of 9.
All in all a traditional story of the acceptance of loss (Neelix) told from a refreshing new perspective (Naomi) - and given the eyes through which we saw this story play out, I'm not at all disappointed with the happy ending.
Sat, Dec 14, 2013, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
Anyone else notice that?
Tue, Jan 7, 2014, 3:21pm (UTC -5)
"On another note..Naomi's mom showed up so rarely that for a long time I thought she'd been killed off in season 1."
Quite the trick that would be, considering Naomi wasn't born until Season 2.
Thu, Feb 6, 2014, 1:14am (UTC -5)
That said, I doubt that would have affected the story too much and would have made later plot developments make sense: Ensign Wildman never showed up again anyway, and Naomi seemed to find a surrogate mother figure in the form of Seven of Nine, just like Neelix effectively replaced her absent father.
Actually, "Naomi warms up to Seven during the grieving process" would have at least made for an interesting subplot in the aforementioned follow-up episode and served to set up their interactions in "Dark Frontier".
Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 8:34pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Apr 20, 2014, 2:21am (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 2, 2015, 12:45pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Apr 26, 2015, 8:06pm (UTC -5)
There would have been no reason for them to include that to the holodeck archives.
They couldn't have made it from scratch, because it has all the stories it's supposed to have on Earth and wherever else it exists, so where do they get them from? They can't pull up the stories from the database, because Voyager shouldn't have it in its database, because it doesn't need them. There were never supposed to be children on board.
These are the questions that haunt my mind. I know it's nitpicking and focusing on a detail that doesn't matter, but hey, that's how my mind twists stories that don't require me to pay much attention.
Mon, Apr 27, 2015, 7:24am (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 29, 2015, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
Also I'm sure I'm not the only person who occasionally gets nostalgic and goes back to read some favorite childhood book. The episode makes it clear that a number of the adult crew have fond memories of Flotter, and the program is apparently scripted to recognize adults who ran it as kids (I assume the program synchs with some central database when run in the Alpha Quadrant, which would be why Voyager's Flotter recognizes Samantha "I'm an ensign now" Wildman even though she was never a child on this ship). It's like complaining that a grown-up has Wizard of Oz or The Hobbit on their bookshelf.
Maybe you're too cool for nostalgia, but some adults in Star Trek apparently aren't. ;)
Tue, May 5, 2015, 10:42am (UTC -5)
Neelix was extremely irritating. I know he suffered alot as a child and I thought it was good that the writers shed some light on his loss but he was still annoying. All he did was project all of his childhood neurosis onto Naomi. Neelix kept saying "she's a really sensitive child". I never got that impression from Naomi. Yes, she seemed to be really worried about her mother but she also was hanging in there. Neelix pulled the same crap with Kes, with his attempts to "protect" her from this or that.
Fri, Aug 14, 2015, 2:02pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 9:06pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 24, 2015, 2:06am (UTC -5)
The first season of Voyager took place 8 years after the first season of TNG. So Janeway, Kim, etc... didn't even have holodecks when they were kids. As usual, the writers aren't paying attention.
Also, this was the worst episode of Voyager so far! Who the fuck can possibly enjoy this AND be too old for pre-school at the same time? Voyager needs more sex, less kids!
Thu, Dec 24, 2015, 5:35am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 17, 2016, 8:59pm (UTC -5)
Which certainly explains how absolutely derivative it is. There's nothing you can point to that is egregiously bad, but it ends up being flat out boring as a result. You can practically see the outline showing all the marks they had to hit for the "child in emotional turmoil" plot. Not bad, just predictable.
Meanwhile, the other concept at least has promise (and given the writer's pedigree, probably would have been good). I mean, Lower Decks was pretty highly regarded, so another episode in that vain (but even more extreme in terms of being out of the loop) could be interesting. More importantly, it would be unique and ambitious, something this episode was sorely lacking. And for those saying that this was ok because it gave something for kids to watch, well, this other option could've been good for kids too. The reason Disney and Pixar are so popular are because the movies are good for everyone, not just for kids.
That said, there were a few tidbits, here and there, that it did do right:
- The actress who played Naomi was actually pretty good for a kid actor. Nice!
- The holodeck program was at least something original. For all the complaining about how everyone in Trek likes 16th-20th century stuff exclusively, Voyager has probably done the most to circumvent this, even with Paris' obsessions.
- The scene in which Tuvok tells Samantha that she can trust the Voyager crew to raise Naomi, comparing it to his youngest child, was good. Tuvok doesn't really get many stories of his own, but his bit parts in almost every episode are always natural, always consistent with his character. Rewatching Voyager, it's clear to me why so many people praise Tim Russ as the best Vulcan since Nimoy.
- I also liked Naomi's scene in the cafeteria with Seven. Nice take to see how the littlest member of Voyager dealt with the Borg presence. Especially since it had absolutely no relevance to the plot, but just there to round out the experience and give us another glimpse of life on Voyager.
- Finally, I liked Naomi's character in general. In particular, she seemed to be a problem solver, strong at puzzles. Not a super genius like Wesley, but a bright, eager kid. Given how annoying kid episodes are, Naomi never annoyed me here. Just the plot did.
Sat, Feb 27, 2016, 12:33pm (UTC -5)
But by heck was this derivative. Virtually nothing actually happens (there's a crash, then a rescue), and while the telling at least takes a different perspective there's not a whole lot in here at the end of the day. 2 stars.
Tue, May 24, 2016, 11:02am (UTC -5)
I enjoyed the Naomi/mom stuff and the 7 Naomi interaction etc.... but the treehead dudes were old about 5 seconds before they were on TV. Good god, Neelix went from "yeah, he's an adult now" to "I want to shoot him" all in one episode.
I'm glad Naomi's mom didn't die.
2.5 stars from me because Voyager tugs at heartstrings better than all the rest.
Mon, Aug 15, 2016, 12:44am (UTC -5)
There would have been no reason for them to include that to the holodeck archives."
I realize this is an old comment, but- It was probably part of a standard "packet" of holodeck software, in which case it's harder to remove a single program than to download the whole thing.
Wed, Aug 24, 2016, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
Just like Alexander, the alien part explains the rapid growth, just like it explains why the pregnancy went on for like a year and a half.
Wed, Aug 31, 2016, 2:10am (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 9, 2016, 7:51am (UTC -5)
I also think the writers missed a great opportunity. A child born on a starship in the delta quadrant would have offered many possible stories. I know they utilized the Naomi character a few more times in later seasons but they could have done much more.
I actually enjoyed the holodeck characters. I thought they looked great, and the interactions were clever.
Overall a reasonable effort. 2 stars is about right.
Thu, Feb 9, 2017, 1:20am (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 20, 2017, 3:42am (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 31, 2017, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 26, 2017, 12:35pm (UTC -5)
I feel like this is the Neelix we should have had the whole time. Someone who is crushed on the inside and copes by being bubbly and silly on the outside. Someone who doesn't have the skills of a Starfleet officer but is still sincere and really cares about those around him. Not the jealous, annoying, childish guy we had for the first 3 seasons. Neelix should be child-like, not childish.
Wildman should have died for the reasons Jammer said above.
Sun, Aug 6, 2017, 2:32pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 11, 2017, 11:21pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 11, 2017, 11:27pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 4:56am (UTC -5)
Nor am I that opposed to the idea that Samantha doesn't die. I am all for the idea that Voyager could have been a "braver" show, but I'm not sure that orphaning the one child is the best step to take in that direction. In The Bonding, Jeremy still has extended family in addition to Worf, so while it's weird to emphasize his joining Worf's family when that element is getting dropped, it's still not so fundamentally surprising for the show not to have to carry around the considerable stress of having a child with no living, biologically-related caretakers running about. Even if Voyager were a consistently better show, I think it'd be a lot to take on.
And nor do I think that the episode "teasing" Wildman's death for angst for Naomi and Neelix is wrong. People almost die and don't, sometimes. The episode makes some good decisions on this, and places much of the emotional focus on Neelix and his still somewhat unprocessed grief over his own family's death; the possibility of Naomi losing her mother opens old wounds of Neelix's, and this prevents him from being able to be truthful with her. The episode's emphasis on Naomi's precociousness, curiosity and intelligence (but not Wesley-style prodigy-brilliance) makes it clear that Janeway is right that Neelix is not doing her any favours by keeping things from her, and that she can see through his and the others' deception, and that it's hurting her. But I don't think the episode cheats by having it look like Wildman might not make it, and/but she doesn't. We're reminded of Neelix's family's death (granted, when he was older than Naomi) and so the episode makes clear that sometimes the worst happens. But often it doesn't. Neelix's feeling that the worst is inevitable prevents him from properly helping Naomi through the uncertain time; if the worst did happen, she would also have to deal with feelings of betrayal that he kept her in the dark, and if the worst didn't happen (as we see here) he only made the temporary worry and confusion worse. It's got an emotional core that works for me, is what I'm saying; Neelix and Naomi are both understandable. And Scarlett Pomers is really great for a child actress (particularly on Trek), one of the best portrayals of children in the franchise.
But yeah, it's not a great show or even that good of one. The Naomi material is marred by the Flotter program, which is goofy-silly without having the (say) edge of Warner Brothers cartoons or Dr. Seuss entertaining to adults, or the logic-pretzels in Lewis Carroll. It's not disastrous, but the episode sort of grinds to a halt as those segments go on. And I think the episode's focus is a little mistaken. Skeptical's point earlier that the episode was hastily rewritten to pivot away from the idea of this being a Standard Crisis but from Naomi's perspective makes sense to me as an explanation of the ep's problems; I would have loved a Lower Decks-style POV-shifted episode from Naomi's POV, including one in which Samantha was endangered (as we got), and even in which Neelix's role in the story was the same but we got to feel both the betrayal and then the feeling of reconciliation without us being able to "know" Neelix's reasons for holding back until he reveals them (except, of course, for our knowledge of his character and history). More to the point, I think the episode misplays its cards, with regards to the shuttle. Not knowing at all whether Wildman is even alive might have been a stronger way to play things, in some senses, but the bigger problem is less that reveal than the fact of having Paris and Tuvok in the shuttle. We know that Paris and Tuvok aren't going to die, and in the unlikely event they *did* die, the episode wouldn't so completely de-emphasize the crew's emotional attachment to those characters, to the point of having no B'Elanna moment in the episode where she's worried about Tom. The episode tries to compensate by having Wildman also have a potentially life-threatening injury, but that seems like an unnecessary fix. The one advantage to having the two regulars in with her (besides giving the regulars some screen time) is Tuvok's lovely speech to Samantha about why he does not worry about his children, and why she should not either; in general the Tuvok material in the shuttle was nice. The episode's attempts to play the possibility that the shuttle won't be returned (and to create a ticking time clock with vague, inconsistent gas references and so on) don't feel credible and it would have been better to either de-emphasize this part of the story or (better) to have the shuttle's status remain a mystery through most of the ep's running time.
I'd say 2.5 stars.
Sat, Dec 23, 2017, 5:28am (UTC -5)
A precocious kid. A shuttle crash. An atrocious holodeck program. False suspense. Neelix. Mama Janeway. A last second rescue. A tearful reunion. Reminiscing about the atrocious childhood holodeck program that couldn't have existed.
And boredom. Don't forget the boredom.
Sat, Dec 23, 2017, 2:18pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Dec 31, 2017, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 4, 2018, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
Apart from that it was an interesting approach to show it partly from a child's point of view.
Wed, Apr 18, 2018, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
I like Voyager, a lot. But while Little Miss Half-Ktarian is tolerable even in generous doses, Itchy and Scratchy IN SPACE !!!! are puke-inducing. If Captain Planet were a Totally Right-On space vegetable, he would be as they are.
Having a good message - “Folk need one another, and need to realise that they depend on one another, so they really ought to drop all the narcissism, tribalism & chest-thumping” - does not make up for having a weak-as-water plot, shallow characterisation, and (yet again) more lazy Deus ex Holodeckery. One is used to wretchedly-confected Evangelical art like “Left Behind”, which sacrifices aesthetic value to the requirements of its message - but it is very disappointing that ST makes the same blunder. If a story is garbage as a piece of craftsmanship, it is sloppy and insulting to broadcast it, regardless of how good the message may be.
Neelix did something to prevent the episode being totally unwatchable, but not enough to rate the episode more than one star. There are worse episodes than this, so this one does not quite deserve zero, notwithstanding the efforts of Butthead and Bevis.
Sat, May 12, 2018, 6:06am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 27, 2018, 8:02pm (UTC -5)
But I did like the interactions between Janeway and Neelix who has an interesting backstory that makes him go through the ringer here. That much was decent and gave the story some tension. The Naomi character did well -- came across as intelligent but naive which is how kids are -- and it created some of the potential parental challenges for Neelix.
But I think the idea of Trek doing a parent dying thing isn't a promising premise. It worked poorly in TNG's "The Bonding".
Naomi forgives Neelix pretty quickly for "lying" to her as well. This could have been really tough on Neelix after she found out for herself what the deal was. But this episode is meant to be a feel-good episode.
The episode tries to milk the purported last minutes of the shuttlecrash survivors -- this totally didn't work. It was like it was just randomly thrown in. The focus is Neelix/Naomi/Janeway but there isn't enough to that dynamic so they have to fill it with holonovel crap and final messages, which came across as particularly lame.
2 stars for "Once Upon A Time" -- not a complete waste but definitely not what I'd call a decent episode. The premise isn't great for Trek and there's too much fluff here. I guess we do get an idea of what a child's life is like on Voyager -- if we cared for that kind of thing.
Thu, Aug 23, 2018, 7:10am (UTC -5)
This one wasn't terrible. OK. So the shuttle crash thing is horribly overdone in Voyager but it's been done far worse than this.
Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 10:19pm (UTC -5)
The Neelix stuff was ok.
The best scenes by far were the ones on the crashed shuttle. If I'm ever trapped somewhere and dying, I want it to be with Tuvok.
The ep was about what's buried inside us, what endures.
Mon, Nov 5, 2018, 5:54pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 11:48am (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 25, 2018, 4:37am (UTC -5)
There actually was suspense in this episode-yes, I knew the Delta Flyer would be retrieved since 2 main characters were in it, but with Ensign Wildman's injuries, I actually thought she might die. (I'm glad she made it)
Nothing pleases you about Voyager I see! Well, you are entitled to your opinion of course, but I don't know why you are so down on it.
MLK-Actually Naomi is a cute little girl-I don't know why you think she is ugly. The alien bumps are nothing compared to the Klingon head ridges B'lanna has, and yet Paris likes her. And what about Worf and his wife Jadzia Dax?
About Tom's message-he strikes me as someone that wouldn't express his true feelings in a "sappy" way, and instead try to push it off in a jokey way, so this seems in character for him
@Ed-Thank you! It amazes me how so many people here are upset at the child in the show, and the childish holodeck program! I regularly read my childhood favourite series-especially the Three Investigators and the McGurk Organisation-and would not be surprised if others didn't as well.
I listen to audiobooks a lot. On a trip that may take 10 hours roundtrip, I still have a good TB of audiobooks on my hard drive-with hard drive space almost limitless in this fictional 24th century, I can see them packing every classic they can on the database!
I also again do not see why people are so against Neelix! Some of his decisions in the past have been a bit odd to me, but no more so than almost everyone else on Voyager at one time or other
Sat, Jul 27, 2019, 5:20pm (UTC -5)
And I will add a little humor in stating that a far more danger to the little girl might have been when the time came to tell her about Janeway's decision making!
Sun, Sep 8, 2019, 4:26pm (UTC -5)
Sat, May 16, 2020, 6:34am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 24, 2020, 9:13am (UTC -5)
I've long since come to appreciate Neelix and what Ethan Phillips brings to the role, and here he reminds us just what a sad person Neelix is beneath his cheery persona and how tragic his backstory is. The scene where Janeway insists that Naomi must be told what's happened to Samantha and Neelix gets so angry before being talked down is a highlight.
Tom and Tuvok's interactions with Samantha while she's injured demonstrate the benefit of giving the main characters scenes where they interact with Voyager's sadly underutilized secondary characters. Tuvok demonstrates empathy with a fellow parent, and Tom's understated concern for "Sam" is also nicely played with none of his usual bravado or joking.
Every now and then it's nice to be reminded that space travel is dangerous for the Voyager crew, and that it's a big deal when someone might not make it back. Extras get killed to provide extra drama, but it always works better when we get to know them first. Still, this is one time it would have been unforgivable to kill off a secondary character, so I'm very glad Samantha lived to see her daughter again. Not that we see her in the present day after this story, oddly....
Sun, Jul 26, 2020, 11:59pm (UTC -5)
And I like the holonovel. This is a much better use of the holodeck than the usual BS of safety protocols off, etc.
Naomi is cute. Nice character moments. Good moments in the shuttle.
Fri, Aug 21, 2020, 4:10am (UTC -5)
The mouthy and precocious yet emotionally vulnerable kid (now THERE's a trope that's never EVER been featured on a television show, amirite!) is a juvenile version of Neelix, who is a juvenile version of...himself.
Someone may have died but, I guess, didn't (I don't know because even having this on as background noise was too irritating so I stopped the whole thing and just scanned through the comments here instead), and a bunch of people I never heard of and don't care about lived happily ever after. Or at least until the writers again run out of sci-fi ideas and decide to parachute them into the show. Okay. Whatevz. The end.
Sat, Sep 5, 2020, 10:07am (UTC -5)
Regarding the lack of holodeck tech, that's easily explained. I used to listen to Sesame Street on vinyl records. If I heard a kid listening to it on a CD, I would still say "I used to listen to that". Maybe Samantha and the captain enjoyed Flotter on an older medium.
This one had its ups and downs for me, but I think that it is carried by Naomi's relentless cuteness, Neelix's very relatable dilemma, and the fact that I was genuinely worried for Ensign Wildman (another character overdue for promotion). I'd give it 2.5 stars.
Sun, Sep 6, 2020, 3:51am (UTC -5)
I agree I didn’t mind the couple of Flotter episodes. It’s used just enough to not really get on your nerves. I feel the same way about the Fair Haven episodes. Luxwana Troi should have got similar treatment and she wouldn’t be as hated
Sat, Jul 3, 2021, 5:34pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 21, 2021, 10:50pm (UTC -5)
Shuttles are the Voyager equivalent of red shirts. The minute you see anyone in one, there's a 75% chance the shuttle is going down. I have avoided getting emotionally attached to any of them for this reason.
Ethan Phillips did a great job here in a dramatic role instead of his court jester role. I don't fault him because the writers turned him into an annoying buffoon. Tuvok showed minor character development when comforting his injured crewmates. Paris also showed a more humble, human side.
It pains me to think how much was spent on costumes and effects for those holodeck characters.
Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 4:29pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 20, 2022, 6:50pm (UTC -5)
Sun, May 15, 2022, 11:10pm (UTC -5)
The cliched aspects were there but a happy ending is fine. If you want relentless grim dark material then Voyager isn’t for you.
And it was fun seeing how a child first reacted to the “ Borg lady”.
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