Star Trek Voyager: Elogium

There's something in the air - Kes is craving dirt and flowers, the turbolifts are starting to resemble that space behind the bike sheds at school, mysterious tadpole-like creatures are swarming towards the ship and Chakotay and Paris are hovering with intent...

Oh dear. Kes's species never did make a lot of sense at the best of times, and this episode takes that to new heights - logically, the Ocampa should never have lasted beyond one or two generations. They can only reproduce once in a woman's lifetime, and by the sounds of things they usually have single births? Are they cloning everyone to produce new pairs? I won't even get in to the idea of a mammalian species giving birth from between their shoulder blades.

Also, this is the episode where the ship gets attacked - or rather, come on to - by giant sperm. Uh-huh.

On the other hand, the great thing about Voyager is that even the bad episodes are enjoyable in their ludicrousness, much like the original series. I mean - the ship gets attacked by giant sperm! It would take a funny-bone made of stone not to be slightly tickled by that. Yes, it's utterly impossible to take seriously, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a level on which it's possible to enjoy this story. Voyager had some serious mis-fires throughout its run, but a lot of them are strangely enjoyable in a silly sort of way.

This episode also addresses something that was bound to come up sooner or later - the fact that it's hard to enforce fraternization rules when the entire crew's only chance for romance is other members of the crew. Which is why Janeway only enforces them for herself as Captain, and no one else. If they really are going to take 70 years to get home, Voyager will have to become more of a flying town and less of a military crew (I wonder if it's possible to extend spaceships?).

There are some nice character-building scenes focused around parenthood here, particularly between Tuvok and Neelix, and Kes and the Doctor. Tuvok is established as a father of four, and everyone's source of advice on parenthood, and his Vulcan lack of emotion somehow makes his discussions of what his children mean to him even more touching, not to mention his advice is always eminently practical. Kes and the Doctor's conversation is framed as a sort-of almost metaphor for teenage pregnancy (except that Kes is not yet pregnant, so she's choosing whether to conceive rather than whether to proceed with an existing pregnancy) but the most moving part of it is Kes's distress over missing her parents. Although, unlike the rest of the crew, Kes chose to leave her homeland and travel with Voyager, she still misses her family, and it's another reminder of the crew's unique situation.

This episode also briefly introduces us to a Neelix-Kes-Paris love triangle. It's not Voyager's best story arc, since jealous Neelix is even more irritating than regular Neelix, but at least Paris and Kes have a nice, easy chemistry. Though personally I can't imagine having a choice between mating with Neelix or Paris and choosing Neelix, especially since, when he's not squirming about impending fatherhood or sulking at Paris, he's insisting repeatedly that the Doctor isn't a person.

Basically, most of this episode is totally ridiculous, but sort of fun - just don't think too hard about the idea of anyone wanting to mate with Neelix.

Bits 'n' pieces

 - More bizarre features of the Ocampan reproductive system - Kes looks considerably less attractive than usual when fertile (see image). Surely this is the real killer for the species.

 - Oh yes, and their parents are involved in the mating ritual (rubbing their offspring's feet to prepare them for mating). It's nice that Kes thinks of Janeway, but given the Doctor's feelings towards her, I'm not sure if getting him to do it instead makes it better or worse.

 - Janeway flirting watch: There's a really sweet moment between her and Chakotay towards the beginning and a hilarious one towards the end (see quotes below). That held gaze in the early part of the episode is probably the moment a potential relationship between them becomes a serious possibility.

 - This is the last of four episodes held over from the end of season one to the beginning of season two, which partially explains how Ensign Wildman has only just discovered that she's pregnant by a husband she left behind in the Alpha Quadrant. Later episodes also established that her husband is an alien, which somehow prompted her human body to adopt an abnormally long gestation period.

 - Neelix's reaction to mashed potato ('awful!') may explain a lot about his cooking.

 - The inertial dampners, usually the first thing to go offline in a crisis, get used at full power here. Nice to know they're good for something!

Quotes

Janeway: Starfleet has always been reluctant to regulate people's personal lives. That explains a lot about Star Trek!

Janeway: I think eventually people will begin to pair off.
Chakotay: Including you?
Really long pause before she remembers she has a fiancee in the Alpha Quadrant...

Janeway: Who'd have thought we'd be considering a generational ship when we were ordered on a 3-week mission?

Tuvok: As illogical as it seems, being a father can have infinite rewards.

Tuvok: It appears we have lost our sex appeal, Captain.

Janeway (to Chakotay): Good work, Commander. In the future, if I have any questions about mating behaviour, I'll know where to go.

Daft but entertaining. Two out of four giant space sperm.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

1 comment:

celticmarc said...

Oh my.

Just remember this one by Kes' weird reproductive system. Forgotten about the rest.

Wow, space seed in the sixties; space sperm in the nineties. Eyes rolling.