Star Trek: Voyager: Elogium   Rewatch 
March 9, 2017 3:29 AM - Season 2, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Ahh, springtime in the Delta Quadrant. When the suns are shining their brightest… the leola plants are in bloom… and a young Ocampa woman's fancy turns to inflating her neck sac, getting foot massages from holograms, and coating her hands in mustard.

Why, Memory Alpha is positively glowing:

- This episode began as a story outline by freelance writers Jimmy Diggs and Steve J. Kay. The storyline came to Jimmy Diggs one morning while he was reminiscing about a strange experience that had occurred when he had been serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War. One starless night, the captain of his ship, which was about to pull into port after a long tour of duty, ordered that the crew clean the craft for an upcoming inspection and that – because there was no full moon nor many stars – the vessel be illuminated with its own lights. Diggs was one of the deckhands who helped with the cleanup operation and noticed that the bright lights of the ship were attracting a large school of fish, a collection that had grown to become thousands of marine animals by the time the ship had docked. Diggs remembered, "The way the fish glistened in the water from the lights, it seemed, surreal. It felt like we were in outer space surrounded by millions of moving stars, and we were on a starship, our own, Enterprise." His memory of that event, having remained with Diggs for years, inspired him to suggest – early one morning when he was in a story pitch meeting with Executive Producer Jeri Taylor and Supervising Producer Brannon Braga – the notion of small space creatures being attracted to Voyager (due to its resonance signature) and wreaking havoc on the ship.

- At the same meeting, there was some question as to how Voyager's crew would rid the starship of the swarm, which prevented the craft from engaging warp, and Jeri Taylor brought up the idea of Kes' coming-of-age tale, and her need to mate, as the episode's 'B' story. Diggs then came up with a humorous line of dialogue. "You know, I sold the story on a tag line," he recalled. "I said, when the crew discovers a way to rid themselves of the creatures and the beings eventually drift away from the vessel, Tuvok can say, 'Captain, I believe that we've lost our sex appeal.' That made Brannon [Braga] laugh, and say the magic word, 'Sold.' Star Trek bought my very first story because of that one, funny, tag line."

- Once his story was bought, Jimmy Diggs made a simple request, writing a letter to Jeri Taylor which asked that a character in the story be named after a certain person who Diggs wanted to honor. The character of Samantha Wildman was thus named in memory of a seven-year-old girl organ donor whose kidney, several years beforehand, had been used to save the life of his wife, Linette. Since the young Samantha Wildman had liked animals, the character was given the specialty of xenobiology.

- Some of Kes' encounter with puberty was intended to be metaphorical for the controversial issue of teenage pregnancy. Ken Biller explained, "There is a little metaphor in there about teen pregnancy. Does Kes, just because she is capable of having a child, have to make the decision to have a child? It's certainly one of the biggest social problems of our day. I'm not saying we weren't trying to tell a good story too, but sometimes what happens is you get an interesting sci-fi idea like Kes going through puberty, and as you begin to write it you discover parallels and themes."

- The writing staff and Ken Biller decided how intense to show the relationship between Kes and Neelix. "That was a big discussion," Biller recalled. "I wanted them to be living together and doing it, but Jeri [Taylor] and Rick [Berman] had some concerns that she is so young. Are we sending the right message to say that they are screwing? Isn't it more interesting if we show the time they have to first confront this issue? [....] We [ultimately] suggested the bizarreness of alien sex. For example, they will have to be bonded for seven days and you see the look on Neelix's face that he was metaphorically going to have to keep it up for seven days. So we were trying to play with the weirdness of alien sexuality."

- Winrich Kolbe was interested in emphasizing Kes' predicament even more extremely than it is depicted in the episode's final version. He explained, "I wanted to go even further with the character, but the studio wouldn't let me. The show went soft at the end. That happens quite frequently in television. You wind up with some wonderful concept, but somewhere along the line, the guts fail and everything is pulled back."

- Janeway actress Kate Mulgrew liked how this episode explores the character of Kes. "It was a splendid show for Kes," Mulgrew enthused. "It showed my involvement with her on a very female level, a very maternal level, which I liked. The show gave Kes many different ways to go, which God knows Jennifer [Lien] can do. She is a constant and wonderful surprise."

- Tuvok actor Tim Russ enjoyed this episode for the universal nature of one of its themes. "This episode dealt with puberty," he observed, "and that reflects a nice range in stories [....] All this stuff is dealing with things that people go through and that is the essence of what [Gene] Roddenberry was putting together in having the science fiction of this show capture or deal with questioning our values and our concepts and what our traditions should be. That, I think, is the most important part of Star Trek."

- Although Voyager's producers had intended "The 37's" to be the series' first season finale, UPN insisted on airing "Learning Curve" as the final episode of the first season. However, Jeri Taylor felt that, like "The 37's", this episode would have made a better season finale than "Learning Curve". Taylor said of "Elogium", "That would have actually been a nice closing episode also, because it leaves us with the realization that someone aboard the USS Voyager (i.e., Ensign Samantha Wildman) is pregnant!"

- From the MA page for the elogium: It was never actually explained how the Ocampa could survive as a species given the nature of the elogium, as it was explicitly stated that it would only occur once in an Ocampan's natural life, meaning the population would drop by half each generation. This, combined with their short lifespan, would normally cause a species to become extinct in a relatively short time. It is entirely possible that multiple births were possible (and, in fact, would need to be common) among the Ocampa, but this was never mentioned and dialogue suggested that Kes expected to only have one child.

- Following her introduction in this episode, Ensign Samantha Wildman became a recurring character in Star Trek: Voyager. The fact that the episode was moved from the first season of the series to its second caused an implication, regarding Ensign Wildman's pregnancy, that seems much like a mistake. In the interim between the two seasons, Jeri Taylor stated, "Because UPN is withholding it and showing it at the beginning of the season, it now makes it seem that Humans have a very strange gestation period – in which this woman was apparently pregnant for seven or eight months without realizing it!" Likewise, Ken Biller felt that ending the episode with Wildman being pregnant was especially one of the episode's aspects that, due to the timing of the installment's broadcast, seemed odd. Years later, in the sixth season episode "Fury", the writing staff would finally explain Wildman's long pregnancy as having been a consequence of the baby's half-Ktarian genes.


"It appears we have lost our sex appeal, captain."

- Tuvok


"Good work commander. In the future, if I have any questions about mating behavior, I'll know where to go."

- Captain Janeway


"You can't mean my body lacks dirt?"

- Kes


"This is MY sickbay and I will decide what goes on here."
"But--!"
"Get out!!"

- The Doctor, asserting his authority to Neelix


"However, I must point out that as illogical as it seems, being a father can have infinite rewards. Far more than would seem possible. My children occupy a significant portion of my thoughts, now more than ever."

- Tuvok


Poster's Log: When VOY first aired, I gave up on it after about the third episode, but on one occasion I spontaneously elected to give the show a second chance, and I'm pretty sure it was this episode; I have a vague memory of dismissing it as a Troi episode with the serial numbers filed off, and that was it for VOY for me until many years later. In retrospect, it was an unfair judgment (though the episode doubtlessly seems weaker if you're not acquainted with the characters' relationships), because this is a really solid one. Lien deserves much of the credit for that. It's also nice to see some new types of interactions between Kes and Neelix, Tuvok and Neelix, and Janeway and everybody. Again, the show is strong when it works with character relationships.

Which reminds me: is this the first really overt flirting between Janeway and Chakotay?

Poster's Log, Supplemental: This might be the first of maaaany VOY episodes that steals the name of an obscure Star Wars species/planet: the Gree. Of course, in fairness, it's a short name and could easily be arrived at independently—and, if MA's speculation about a connection to Ferengi gree-worms is accurate, then the name originated with DS9. But it really became an undeniable trend later in VOY, notably with the name Quarren (here's who they are in Star Wars), a name they liked so much they used it twice.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (22 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
So, I liked the A plot? B plot? The non-Kes plot okay. Janeway and Chakotay flirting was actually kind of cute, and I enjoyed that they brought up the possibility that Voyager might have to become a generation ship and the moral ramifications behind that. The aliens were at least not very alpha-quadrant-like, even if showing submission by flipping over doesn't make much sense in space.

I honestly thought the pregnancy line was just because the writers weren't great about thinking about biology and motherhood and their own timeline, especially considering what else happened in the show.

But the Neelix and Kes stuff was just bad.

First off, part of me wishes Kes's episode didn't have anything to do with pregnancy, because there's a lot more that can be done with the character, and Trek tends to shove women into either romance or motherhood tracks pretty quickly. Lien did fine with what she was given.

But the episode starts out with Neelix being super creepy and controlling to Kes, because that seems to be the entire basis of this relationship - I don't know if we've ever seen them actually act affectionately to each other without it being about placating the other into not being angry at them. But then we just blow right past that because the episode raised the idea that Kes isn't actually sexually mature, and they made it explicit by equating heats to puberty (which doesn't really work the same way, but whatever). If this is equating the episode to teenage pregnancy, Neelix is kind of in a relationship with a teenage girl. So now you have Neelix romancing an explicitly sexually underaged Kes and that is not okay. Congratulations, Voyager has managed their relationship even creepier than it already was.

But honestly, Neelix isn't treated well, either. Having 24 hours to figure out if you want to be responsible for another creature is not a way to get a good and honest answer out of anyone, and the way that Kes responds isn't really fair to Neelix. I think most animal shelters have you wait longer than that these days. Nor is Neelix being the dad really the only option! If Kes was like 'okay, I'll find another coparent' and then Neelix got super controlling, it'd be a lot more understandable for Kes to be angry at him. Even if he was the only one guaranteed to be genetically compatible, it would be okay for them to come to an agreement that he'd be the donor but not the dad. Not to mention Neelix might have some feelings or some issues from surviving Space Hiroshima while the rest of his family died. Or the lifespan of his offspring is likely to be much shorter, so he's likely to outlive both mother and child.

Even if I grade it on a 90's curve - allowing the show to forget about Space Hiroshima, allowing for more conservative values pushing for a two-parent household, there's still a ton of problems with this storylines.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:20 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


This episode is a bit of a mixed bag for me. In terms of the Neelix-Kes relationship, I've just about come around to accepting that he's just a jealous ass and that's the way it's going to be until they finally break up, whether it's because of Space Hiroshima or modeled on his parents' relationship or whatever. I very much liked the aspect of the show in which we're reminded that Kes is definitely not human, or even your more-or-less average humanoid. (I was working up some elaborate puns based on [m]Eat the Beetles!, but that led me into some of John Lennon's songs about jealousy and reminded me that he physically abused his first wife and I dropped it.) As is common when thinking about Voyager premises, I wish that they'd taken it a bit further and thought around some of the implications of the things that they were throwing out. For example, if Ocampans can only have one elogium, wouldn't it make more sense (in terms of perpetuating the species) if they would have a whole bunch of kids at once--a litter, basically? And what if anyone on the ship, male, female, or otherwise, could be the other parent? A bit more exploration of that would have been better than the afterschool-specialism of "well, gee, you shouldn't have kids until you're really ready." (I'm reminded of TNG's "The Naked Now" reviving the space virus from the original series to hammer home the idea that driving your starship drunk is a really bad idea, mmkay, kids?)

On the other hand, the show acknowledges that the overall Plan B for the ship is that they do become a multigenerational ship, and maybe they should start planning for that. (WRT Kes, they come back around to the idea of her having kids leading to multiple generations very close together in the third-season episode "Before and After.") Jennifer Lien is very good here, switching gears from Kes' usual calm empathy to someone who's almost frantic about trying to figure out what to do about all of this way ahead of where she thought she'd have to deal with it; her scene with the Doctor where she's talking about missing her dad was quite touching.

As far as the B-plot, meh. It might have been funnier and trickier if they'd figured out that the big space-whale thing was trying to mate with Voyager. And WRT the Janeway-Chakotay thing, something that occurred to me with this episode is that, with the new default aspect ration of television being 16:9, it's easy to forget that, with the old 4:3 aspect ratio, if you wanted to have close-ups of two people in the same frame, you ended up having to put their faces pretty close together. Although they do seem to be kind-of flirting, yeah.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:44 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


Trek tends to shove women into either romance or motherhood tracks pretty quickly.

Thinking more on this subject - this isn't fair. There are plenty of female characters that have decent plotlines that have nothing to do with being a wife or a mother, it's more that the plotlines that do have to do with romance or motherhood are almost uniformly horribly done. There's the occasional good relationship on Star Trek - I liked Jadzia and Worf most of the time - but I don't trust Trek to do well with these sorts of plots.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:30 AM on March 9


Particle of the Week: Electrophoretic field
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: It's possible to pick up an Impulse Capacitance Cell in Star Trek Online. The wiki references this episode. (The console is not very good - I can't picture a scenario where I would slot one even if I had one.)
Ongoing Equipment Tally: (no changes this week)
* Photon Torpedoes: 37
* Shuttles: Down 1
* Crew: 151
* Bio-neural Gelpacks: 47
Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: still just 2

Notes:
* This one was hard to finish.

If this is equating the episode to teenage pregnancy, Neelix is kind of in a relationship with a teenage girl. So now you have Neelix romancing an explicitly sexually underaged Kes and that is not okay. Congratulations, Voyager has managed their relationship even creepier than it already was.

Yep. I hate pretty much every aspect of their relationship, but the show has found a new low for them to occupy.

I also really hated this:
"It's him I don't trust."
Man, that's some hateful misogyny right there, especially followed with Neelix's breathtakingly awful stuff with Tuvok, where he goes on about how he could teach a son piloting and survival and dating, but 'wouldn't have anything to teach a daughter.' I have known plenty of guys who think that way, it's perfectly realistic and all, but I don't need that in my Star Trek.

(It also makes me sad that Neelix is the half of the pair they kept for the whole run. Good grief, but he's a drag on proceedings. The 'I don't think a hologram should do this or that' stuff was also appalling.)

* This is a reminder of how wasted Jennifer Lien is on this show.

Jennifer Lien is very good here, switching gears from Kes' usual calm empathy to someone who's almost frantic about trying to figure out what to do about all of this way ahead of where she thought she'd have to deal with it; her scene with the Doctor where she's talking about missing her dad was quite touching.

Agreed. She's pretty great here, and it's a shame they don't have anything else for her most of the time. (Lien gets second place in 'who do I feel worst for on this show,' right after Beltran.)

* B-plot was fine.

A couple small lines really stuck out during that, that I liked:
"We could make a targ-scoop."
I appreciated that, for once, the everyday analogy used to describe technobabble was Klingon instead of rooted in modern Earth expressions. That was nice.
"Captain, we appear to have lost our sex appeal."
Tuvok's always gold.

I also did like the discussion of whether they should become a generation ship, the Janeway/Chakotay banter and so on. I did think it was weird that Chakotay was the one talking about fraternization - like, having the former Maquis being the one hung up on procedure is always weird to me. But it was fine by Voyager standards, down to his clever, (if nonsensical), resolution of the problem.

All in all... yeah, mixed episode for me too. I really had trouble sitting through Neelix doing much of anything here. Star Trek went a bit far with the whole 'nobody can have interpersonal conflicts' thing in TNG, but dragging it back to 'actually one of the members of the crew is a flaming intolerable asshole' is maybe a bit of an overcompensation.
posted by mordax at 11:46 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


So, the writers discussed this episode as something of an analogy to teen pregnancy. They discussed how intense the relationship between Neelix and Kes should be, and they worried about Kes being too young for that part of the relationship to be intense, but never really got around to the more in our face issue of her being with Neelix at all? If those are their thoughts about Kes and the possibility of her having a child or even sex, then what is it they think Neelix is doing exactly? How is it better that they haven't had sex yet since that even goes further towards suggesting even for an Ocampan she is too young for that kind of relationship. It'd certainly be at least plausibly acceptable if they held the idea that for an Ocampan Kes' age is a normal one for "adult" romantic involvement, making that not the case doesn't make her relationship with Neelix any better.

The rest of the crew may be forgiven perhaps for not knowing the intricacies of the Ocampan life span and expected behaviors, but they surely should recognize Neelix's attitude towards Kes borders on abusive and is questionable in its moral basis to say the least. An attitude of non-involvement in crew affairs sounds fine in theory, but it's actually not great workplace policy in many instances for reasons like this or other controlling behavior, though, sure, maybe the future fixes that and all relationships are more mature, though nothing in the show suggests that, rather the opposite, see Paris and B'Elanna's spats for examples later. As far as I'm concerned, Kes and Neelix is just plain toxic to the show since the writers really don't know what they're doing with it and those two characters enough to make it work at all.

The whole "big decision" 'life changing sacrifice" part of the dilemma also rings a little hollow when it's a parenting commitment of, what? a few months until the kid would be an adult? Goldfish require more involvement than that. Sure, the idea of parenting a child that would grow old before you and die and possibly have children of their own who would do the same and so on would be a concern, but then how is that not central to the primary relationship of Neelix and Kes themselves? Pushing it off as purely a parenting issue is sort of missing the more direct problem there.

What's up with KILL! KILL! KILL! B'Elanna in this episode? Why so gung ho on taking out the alien sex whales? Did her "bad" Klingon blood get worked up by the electrowhatsit too?

If you're going to make a point of introducing a new xenobiologist character, why give Chakotay all the ideas about the alien life form and leave her looking mostly confused? Not that Chakotay wasn't a fine choice as the normal bridge member to best comprehend the situation or that Beltran didn't do well with it, but having Wildman there to essentially do nothing except act as the final ribbon on the everything about sex is babies exploration (Chakotay: "I wasn't even thinking about procreation, but I suppose it's the inevitable outcome.") they were engaged in is kinda silly, and that they had to "legitimize" her pregnancy with a husband on DS9, despite that seeming ridiculous of the face of it at this late point isn't really a feather in their cap either. The Wildman's get more interesting later, but this wasn't a great intro to them.

That decision to layer several, five?, different conception related ideas/thems on top of each other goes a bit overboard, not least with Kolbe going whole hog on tying the Kes subplot to the talk of the other sex talk. The shot of her realizing she's been eating the beetles right before the main credits roll is nutty. She looks to the beetles in her hand then turns and takes a step towards the camera before her eyes bug out, so to speak. It's sorta ludicrous in both an amusing and counter productive way once the other serious elements get brought in regarding Neelix. Which is too bad, since Lien does a great job with the wacky in her eating everything and won't go to sick bay scene, but, of course, Neelix, or rather Phillips, chooses that moment to play serious concerned Neelix and screw up the tone of the scene.

His character really has no consistency, especially around Kes, as Phillips and the writers try to have him being both mr caring concern, goofy mcfunny guy, and jealous ass all around the same subject. His rant to the captain about the doctor kicking him out of sick bay shows him more concerned with the treatment he received than in relaying concern over Kes' condition, but he's all "What about poor Kes hologram?" when in sickbay. (That with his repeated references to Tuvok as "Vulcan" or "Mr. Vulcan" is pretty questionable behavior that sort of sits there pointed out as an issue, but not really coming from or amounting to anything, just another little piece of the early Neelix puzzle I guess.)

Lien's scenes with the doctor and Janeway are also quite good, and Neelix's talk with Tuvok isn't bad, once again Neelix plays the ass in the I want a boy talk, only to get fittingly slapped down by Tuvok and change his mind in the semi-creepy "No, definitely a daughter, and I want her to look just like you" moment with Kes. I mean, yeah, it'd be great, in a little over a year the girl will be the same age as Kes is now, so Neelix can treat her as his property too in just the same way. I mean that is the assumption isn't it, or do the writers and Phillips even have any working model for how this character works with how often they flip back and forth on his behavior and how it seems we are expected to respond to it.

Janeway and Chakotay? Shoulda happened. Beltran and Mulgrew play off each other really well and that could have been teased out for a lot longer than they allowed it to, maybe it should have come to nothing, or maybe go farther with the trapped together moment that can't be carried back to the ship yet not just set aside and forgotten either, but they should have continued to play up that bonding even if it was reasonable to not let them give in to it fully for sensible command reasons. The alien sex whales looked really nice outside Janeway's window too, some nice effects and concept there.

In their brief moments, Paris and Harry come off well too, adding the right amount of personality to relatively throw away lines. So, my problems with the episode are pretty much entirely around the horrorshow that early Neelix mostly is, especially in relation to Kes, and Bloodthirsty B'Elanna, the rest of the cast did a fine job and the dilemma, while having a little too much feel of the "sour the milk" episode of TNG had it moments too. An unattached Kes would have done wonders for the episode, and the show.

On preview: No, Trek hasn't typically handled relationships well. On TOS, that could sorta be forgiven as it all being still such a masculine ethos thing at that time, but TNG and Voyager didn't find much better ways to go, since they kept this mentality that certain major tenets of traditional morality is "rodenberryesque" due to it being viewed as proper or uncontroversial and therefore futuristically more likely in Rodenberry's concept of an "advanced" civilization. This episode is fraught with that sort of double bind in thinking, where conservatism and futurism get tangled together unwisely.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:48 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]


Oh, meant to address this:

or example, if Ocampans can only have one elogium, wouldn't it make more sense (in terms of perpetuating the species) if they would have a whole bunch of kids at once--a litter, basically? And what if anyone on the ship, male, female, or otherwise, could be the other parent?

That's a hilarious fix for the nonsense reproductive stuff surrounding Ocampans.
posted by mordax at 11:50 AM on March 9


Oh, and sorry for the repetition of the points others also mentioned without crediting the duplication of notice, but it took me a while to get through writing that since the Neelix thing irked me so and I didn't catch them until after I had started ranting.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:52 AM on March 9


I totally get that. I was feeling pretty ranty after this one myself.
posted by mordax at 12:03 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]


I sort of assumed it was a litter scenario and blithely ignored all of the references to 'a baby'. I don't know what this says about me.

"It's him I don't trust."

Okay, this is going to sound weird, but in a way I don't hate that line, because it's such a common sentiment you hear early on in an abusive relationship that it's nice to have it in there as a teachable moment. Anyone ever says that to you, immediately break up with them and run far, far away.

I mean, the thing that gets me is that asking someone to have a child that they will almost certainly outlive is a really heavy thing to ask someone to do. Child death is a different beast than the death of a spouse - both are horrible, but people are entitled to feel protective of their children in a way that doesn't really work with a spouse, even as much as you love them. With a spouse, one of you have to die first, but with a child - generally you expect that they'll outlive you. I was thinking of asking this question as a hypothetical to some of the parents I knew, but I couldn't get myself to do it because I honestly think there's a good chance that they would refuse to talk to me for a while for even making them think about this. Add on to the fact that Neelix is apparently also dealing with survivor's guilt - that's a hell of a lot to ask of a person, even if the guy is an irredeemable abusive asshole.

I don't really want to spend any more time with the Neelix/Kes relationship than I really have to, but part of me does want to spend a little more time with the idea that Neelix and Kes have such different lifespans - and how long have they been together, anyway? Counting backwards, she must have been barely one when they boarded Voyager.

. . . and now I've skeeved myself out again.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:20 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]


Okay, this is going to sound weird, but in a way I don't hate that line, because it's such a common sentiment you hear early on in an abusive relationship that it's nice to have it in there as a teachable moment. Anyone ever says that to you, immediately break up with them and run far, far away.

I could see that, but for me, it's upsetting to watch Star Trek embrace and normalize this kind of behavior. I love Star Trek for its idealism and general optimism. Like, in this episode, I appreciate that Janeway refuses to do the expedient thing and just blast the cosmozoans to atoms because that would be wrong. Seeing an abusive relationship occur in the same universe that's like, 'no we can't hurt the weird space monsters' is a reminder that we'll never actually be past behavior like Neelix's.

Like, it's the contrast that makes it worse. Seeing horrible relationship dynamics in a show about the modern world, like Breaking Bad? That's just good drama. This stuff does happen in those environments. Seeing it here is an admission that 'yeah, we can make peace with the Klingons, but even a civilization capable of that isn't going to do anything about this.' Neelix's portrayal of it being so accurate, and knowing the writers don't see anything wrong with this, just makes it more disheartening.

Trek's always been pretty bad with women*, but this really is a special hell compared to other shows since it's an ongoing piece of the background.

. . . and now I've skeeved myself out again.

I never do these, but:

Star Trek Voyager: and now I've skeeved myself out again.

(* Special mention to Nana Visitor for pushing back so hard and effectively.)
posted by mordax at 1:07 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]


I could see that, but for me, it's upsetting to watch Star Trek embrace and normalize this kind of behavior. I love Star Trek for its idealism and general optimism. Like, in this episode, I appreciate that Janeway refuses to do the expedient thing and just blast the cosmozoans to atoms because that would be wrong. Seeing an abusive relationship occur in the same universe that's like, 'no we can't hurt the weird space monsters' is a reminder that we'll never actually be past behavior like Neelix's.

Like, it's the contrast that makes it worse. Seeing horrible relationship dynamics in a show about the modern world, like Breaking Bad? That's just good drama. This stuff does happen in those environments. Seeing it here is an admission that 'yeah, we can make peace with the Klingons, but even a civilization capable of that isn't going to do anything about this.' Neelix's portrayal of it being so accurate, and knowing the writers don't see anything wrong with this, just makes it more disheartening.


Yeah, I see where you're coming from, and I don't think the writers think Neelix is as bad as he is - I mean the fact that they wanted to tell the story of teen pregnancy (technically kind of a pre-teen pregnancy because she hasn't reached puberty yet, though they don't reach sexual maturation until middle age?) but didn't then stop and wonder if they just made Neelix a pedophile shows that they were operating under very conservative norms. And I sympathize, because Star Trek is hard to take as utopian in retrospect - I remember when I tried to watch TNG a few years ago, and couldn't get passed the first few episodes because the tension between the writer's room's values and the supposed values of the Federation got too much for me.

In some ways, it's nice to think about how far we've come in this short time, but I agree that the race and gender missteps are even more egregious because this is supposed to be a utopia. NuTrek just sort of forgot that the Federation was supposed to be utopian, but it'll be interesting to see how Discovery feels in a few months.

Nana Visitor is a goddamn treasure in regards to making DS9 more palatable, and I know Avery Brooks did a lot of work to make sure Sisko stayed a good dad. And in some ways it's weird, DS9 was written as the least utopian of the Treks, but I think it also has the least tension between the Federation norms and the writer's room norms as to what a utopia would look like.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:44 PM on March 9 [3 favorites]


Well, the writer's rooms norms plus Nana Visitor arguing against them whenever they planned something egregious.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:49 PM on March 9


This episode is fraught with that sort of double bind in thinking, where conservatism and futurism get tangled together unwisely.

Really interesting point being bandied about here. I don't have much to add except that
1- here's somewhere that Bryan Fuller is virtually certain to at least try to make progress with Discovery
and
2- IIRC this entanglement will visit VOY again, and I wonder if we will learn more about any behind-the-scenes controversy—i.e., maybe the writers' room hosted actual debates sometimes?

And in some ways it's weird, DS9 was written as the least utopian of the Treks, but I think it also has the least tension between the Federation norms and the writer's room norms as to what a utopia would look like.

Yeah, someone in one of the DS9 posts (maybe it was me) asserted that, rather than being the red-headed stepchild of the franchise, DS9 should be regarded as the one that most fully realized what Trek was truly supposed to be about, for reasons akin to what you mention. Along with Nana Visitor, I get the sense that Ira Behr had a lot to do with that.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:26 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


here's somewhere that Bryan Fuller is virtually certain to at least try to make progress with Discovery

As something of a fan of Hannibal, though with a few reservations towards how he handled the final season, I hope so, but I have to also note that Fuller was the writer of what is likely my least favorite Voyager episode, and one where these sorts of moral/political/sexual issues were front and center. That episode was the one that seemingly wanted to address issues surrounding repressed memory via Seven and the doctor, but ended up seeming as much an apologia for men accused of rape and not trusting women's claims. I'll wait until we get there and I get a chance to view it again before saying anything more, other than with Trek and these kinds of analogies it seems likely that the problems can't be satisfactorily solved on a regular basis due to the nature of the show, I mean as it has been anyway, who knows where it'll go in this coming incarnation.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:30 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


when I tried to watch TNG a few years ago, and couldn't get passed the first few episodes

Give it a second effort. The first season of TNG is legendarily bad, but beginning in late season 2 through the sixth season it's often excellent.

Regarding Kes/Neelix: am I the only one who thought the show improved quite a bit when they stopped trying to force that relationship? I think Neelix improved as a character, though they still didn't really know what to do with Kes.
posted by rocketman at 6:37 AM on March 10


As something of a fan of Hannibal, though with a few reservations towards how he handled the final season

That's pretty much exactly me too.

I have to also note that Fuller was the writer of what is likely my least favorite Voyager episode, and one where these sorts of moral/political/sexual issues were front and center. That episode was the one that seemingly wanted to address issues surrounding repressed memory via Seven and the doctor, but ended up seeming as much an apologia for men accused of rape and not trusting women's claims.

Shit, I have no memory of this. Maybe *I* repressed it. Well, as you say, we'll wait and see about that one.

Regarding Kes/Neelix: am I the only one who thought the show improved quite a bit when they stopped trying to force that relationship? I think Neelix improved as a character

I think that must have happened at some point, because while I don't specifically recall consciously thinking "Neelix has improved," I also don't recall arriving at an overall negative assessment of the character through the series, which so far in this rewatch suggests he must have improved! Certainly, I always found his style of comic relief to be…overall not quite to my taste, but I do have a vague memory that he gets a greater number of serious character elements later, maybe?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:25 AM on March 10


I've mentioned it before, but to my taste, Neelix did improve once Seven came aboard and Kes split. The relationship thing was gone, they toned down his antics some, and gave him some occasionally more meaningful moments. His character has some decent moments prior to that time, and the writers and Phillips, eventually honed in on a narrower concept of his personality, in a way, and focusing on that, his helpful more Guinanesque qualities, made him work a lot better. (Unfortunately at roughly the same time they started broadening the doctor's character and made him worse.)

I assume the writers had some idea of where they were going to take the Neelix Kes relationship with all the jealousy drama they built in, and hopefully somewhere beyond the confrontation/reconciliation with Paris plot, but things didn't go as they planned so the general arc for Neelix and Kes shifts, it seems. The later Paris-B'Elanna relationship doesn't give me much hope they would have somehow made the Neelix-Kes relationship ever work much better. It almost seems like there was a sort of tug of war over Neelix in the writer's room, where some episodes push his "darker" attributes or past, while others did see him more in an ambassador role and wanted to just emphasize that, and of course lazy Neelix cooking jokes from all parties.

(Why would they keep him on as cook when nobody seems to like his food much? Is calling dibs all it takes to get a position on the ship? If I was trapped on a ship for the rest of my life, the thought of eating crappy food every day on top of that would lead me to despair.)
posted by gusottertrout at 8:44 AM on March 10


Oh, shoot, I also meant to add that I sometimes get the feeling the writers have a very specific concept of who they believe their audience is, and that they write to that audience in some cases. With Paris, I get the feeling he was meant to be the fantasy vaguely Kirky audience guy in the beginning and Neelix was more treated as audience surrogate, using him as a proxy for how they saw the comic-con/Trekkie crowd actually being in relationships or it being the kind they seemed to desire, with younger inexperienced women, immature sexual attitudes, and more than a bit fanciful when it comes to what is said versus what's done. The kinds of characteristics that are roughly the popular stereotype of the "Living in your parents basement" Trek fan. It isn't a constant thing, but I do sometimes get a feeling that some of the writers use Neelix as their proxy for exemplifying their thoughts on some of the people watching.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:01 AM on March 10


Yeah, someone in one of the DS9 posts (maybe it was me) asserted that, rather than being the red-headed stepchild of the franchise

*raises hand*
I talked about that some. It's my contention that DS9 had the most realized vision because it engaged the most in serialized world building and relations between Federation and non-Federation cultures. Basically, they chose to show their work, so they made the best effort to make the whole utopia thing make sense. It's even lampshaded pretty early: Jake talks with Nog about how enlightened humans don't have money and Nog's like, 'then why do you need mine?'

Good stuff. And yeah, I think Ira Behr was another voice for good there, based on what I've read behind the scenes. Ronald Moore too - while I have lots of issues with BSG, he was a proponent of a number of things that made DS9 click for me.

On the other hand, I feel like TNG and Voyager missed the mark there because they were both adventure of the week shows centered purely on Federation citizens, (the Maquis thing on Voyager was mostly dropped by episode 3, to the show's detriment), so there was never any reason to get into 'how does this work' or 'why does this work.' They could just assert 'yeah this works we're so enlightened, man' without offering much supporting evidence. In retrospect, I think this may even be part of why the Maquis thing was dropped so fast - I don't think they wanted to deal with the added complexity of it once they were actually rolling. (For various flavors of 'they.' I know the suits didn't want serialization, but it also doesn't seem like people in the writers' room were thinking very deeply about their stories.)

It isn't a constant thing, but I do sometimes get a feeling that some of the writers use Neelix as their proxy for exemplifying their thoughts on some of the people watching.

Neelix as Voyager's Ronaldo?

That is depressingly plausible, and makes it funnier in retrospect that he insisted on keeping Voyager's menu weird.
posted by mordax at 9:14 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Give it a second effort. The first season of TNG is legendarily bad, but beginning in late season 2 through the sixth season it's often excellent.

I'll probably get around to it when metafilter gets around to doing the rewatch in a year or two, but honestly, the stuff that I took issue with (this is a utopia! . . . And anyone who isn't a human male starfleet officer is treated kind of like shit) never sounded like it got much better. Lowered expectations will probably help a lot.

I don't know much about the new post-Fuller showrunners of Discovery - I never watched Reign or Revenge, but it looks like they worked on a number of other Fuller projects, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:01 AM on March 13


I'm way behind here, but if I remember right, there's a scene in Kes' quarters that looks like they were having trouble getting a great take and they just decided to keep it. She's snarfing down mashed potatoes, and when she gets up from sitting with one foot underneath her, her heel gets caught in her hem and she ends up hopping across the room, and she and Neelix end the scene staring at each other like one of them forgot their lines and they're about to laugh and someone please say "cut" already.
posted by Occula at 2:59 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


I don't think the writers think Neelix is as bad as he is - I mean the fact that they wanted to tell the story of teen pregnancy (technically kind of a pre-teen pregnancy because she hasn't reached puberty yet, though they don't reach sexual maturation until middle age?) but didn't then stop and wonder if they just made Neelix a pedophile

That was my takeaway with the Kes/Neelix half of this -- that the writers don't seem to realize the implications of how they're writing Neelix, and haven't thought through the implications of what everything means to Kes. It really, really doesn't help that Neelix vacillates between being a kind of brother/father figure, talking about how he's just watching out for her and how she's 'too innocent' and being jealous of anyone else being remotely intimidate (or even close to) Kes. The way it's written, it's if Neelix is supposed to be a kind of laughably jealous lover, but that's really not how it comes across at all.

"I have a lot to teach a son...[but] a daughter? I don't have anything to teach a daughter!" also didn't help. Nor did the show's focusing on how all of this changes that Kes is going through impacts Neelix -- it felt like he should have had half the screen time he had, and Kes should have had a lot more; and of what she gets, a ton of it is beetle-eating for shock value and Neelix's is character development.

...I did not like this episode. And it has not aged well since it was first on-air.

There are some good moments: Tuvok's talk with Neelix is great, for example, both on a character level of what's-the-deal-with-Tuvok and on a personal level of trying to meet Neelix where he is and draw out and address his anxieties. For an emotionless Vulcan, Tuvok really gets people. I suspect he might make a better (if subtler) morale officer than Neelix does.

The space swarm b-plot is fine! I didn't love it, I didn't hate it; it was enjoyable enough that it deserved to share space with a better a-plot.
posted by cjelli at 11:39 AM on April 17


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