Star Trek Voyager: Parturition

“They'd better be all right, because when I see them, I'm personally going to tell them that I never intend to speak to either one of them again!”

Paris and Neelix are interrupted in the middle of a food fight. (This is why I love Voyager; it never takes itself too seriously). Voyager is in dire need of supplies and only these two can get them, but once down on ‘Planet Hell’ they find themselves distracted by an apparently abandoned lizard baby. (Note to Voyager fans; no, not those lizard babies. We haven’t got to those yet…).

Here are some things this episode includes: Paris being in love with Kes, Neelix being jealous of Paris even though Kes has made it clear she’s only interested in Neelix, an infant, Neelix and Paris being forced to work together, not much of anyone or anything else. There’s only one really appealing thing about that list and that’s the number of times the name ‘Paris’ appears on it.

The basic plot of this episode is more or less the sort of thing you’d expect to see on Sesame Street. Neelix is jealous of Paris spending time with Kes, but they’re forced to work together. While out of contact on a particularly unpleasant planet, they stop to look after an alien lizard baby and bond over caring for the baby. By the end of the episode, they’ve forged a new friendship, much to Kes’s bemusement. In the episode's defence, at least the reason they have to work together makes sense (Paris is the best pilot, Neelix is their expert on edible plants, so they are the two who have to go to a tricky planet looking for food). Janeway’s attitude, that they should get over their personal problems and get on with their job, is also perfectly sensible. But that’s about all you can say about it – the food fight is really the best bit.

Some of the character stuff on Paris’s side is reasonably well done. Harry thinks Paris goes after women he can’t have, setting himself up for rejection, because he enjoys playing the part. Considering how dramatic Paris is being, and how McNeill deliberately overplays the drama queen angle (that’s a compliment!) he’s probably right. And to be fair to Paris, when he realises he’s in love with Kes he tries to do the right thing by avoiding her, and gets hair pasta chucked all over him for his efforts. Neelix just cements his position as the most annoying character on the show.

However, despite being a bizarre combination of irritating and bland, this episode does highlight some of the things Voyager does well. Although the primary story of Neelix’s jealousy and Paris’s feelings for Kes is rather too broadly played, the show is very good at smaller character beats. In this case, Harry has used his replicator rations to make himself a new clarinet, replacing the one he left behind in the pilot. Harry’s clarinet playing is really rather nice and has always been one of my favourite recurring character details from the show. It fleshes Harry out and makes him seem more like a human being, and is all the better for having no plot-based reason to exist (unlike Paris' interest in history, old movies and antique vehicles, which expands according to the needs of the plot).

The series is also good at throwing in touches of humour and details that make the crew’s situation feel that much more real and give it some depth. The most memorable thing about this episode is probably Neelix’s hair pasta (not made from his hair, but yes, made from hair). Voyager's various references to the awful food Neelix produces which everyone is forced to eat when they run out of replicator rations and/or energy sources is one of the show’s lightest and most frequently funny running gags. It’s things like this that make the series a reliably pleasant way to pass the time even when watching a poorer episode.

This isn’t a particularly good episode. It’s not even really a mediocre episode. But take a look at that Quotes section! The plot may be dire, but the dialogue is really quite good fun. Get some friends round, get in a few drinks, and enjoy. This is quite often the best way to watch Voyager anyway.

Bits ‘n’ pieces

 - Shuttlecraft count: I gave them a pass for 'Non Sequitur,' as although Harry's ship appeared to get blown up twice, I presumed that once the timelines were all back in sync, the shuttlecraft was restored as well. However, there's no such ambiguity here. Paris and Neelix crash on the planet and the shuttlecraft can neither be repaired nor recovered - it's abandoned and our heroes are beamed out. Voyager has now lost both the shuttlecraft it left with and should, in theory, be down to just Neelix's ship. Shuttlecraft lost: 2.

 - For one episode only, Janeway has shorter hair, closer to Kate Mulgrew’s own. It suits her, as the producers would eventually work out… in season four.

 - The crew still aren’t including the Doctor in discussions where a medical opinion might be useful, so he’s resorted to eavesdropping. Also, he’s kind of a busy-body.

 - Janeway flirting watch: Nothing too obvious, but she doesn’t half seem worried when she discovers the Doctor’s been spying on everyone.

 - The alien lizard baby puppet is great.

Quotes

Janeway: Set a course for Planet Hell, Commander. This pre-credits line makes it sound like this episode is going to be much more exciting than it actually is.

Janeway: Would anyone care to explain? (when Neelix and Paris report for duty covered in hair pasta).

Doctor: 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!
Doctor: It's not meant to be. You've always been interested in autopsies.

Doctor: Whenever you walk into a room, his respiration increases, his pupils dilate and the coloration of his ears turns decidedly orange. Until I noticed the pattern, I thought he was suffering from Tanzian flu.

Kes: On my homeworld, it's so much simpler. You choose a mate for life; there's no distrust, no jealousy, no envy, no betrayal…
The Doctor: Hmm. Your world must have very dry literature.

Neelix: You don’t have to impress me with your technobabble.

Paris: Lock on to us, Voyager. If you hear muffled screams, consider that a request for a beam-out.

This is not a good episode. But it is sort of sweet with some nice dialogue. One and a half out of four bowls of hair pasta.

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

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