Star Trek: Voyager: Parturition   Rewatch 
March 20, 2017 7:16 AM - Season 2, Episode 7 - Subscribe

AKA The Spaghetti Incident.

Memory Alpha really didn't need to know that "hair pasta" was made out of actual hair:

- This episode was partly written as an attempt to remedy the fact that Voyager's producers felt the character of Tom Paris had been underused in the first season. The episode's script was also motivated by concerns that executive producer Michael Piller had about Neelix, because Piller feared that the character was becoming too comical and the writers wanted to deal with his jealousy and possessiveness towards Kes, qualities that Piller thought were becoming irritating. In addition, the writers wanted to put an end to unfriendly tension between Neelix and Paris, regarding Kes. Executive producer Jeri Taylor explained, "We wanted to resolve what had been a lingering bitterness between Paris and Neelix. It just becomes unattractive to have Neelix continually responding in that way and we didn't want to perpetuate it. What is Kes going to say after a while? Stop being such an asshole? No. So we wanted to create the feeling of a family, not a lot of people with resentments. So we were looking for a way for Paris and Neelix to resolve their differences and this plot worked out very nicely."

- The Voyager crew's nickname for the planet in this episode is an inside joke, as "Planet Hell" is the unofficial name used by Star Trek production staff for their generic and oft-reused cave set on Paramount Stage 16, a naming tradition that originally began during production on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

- The infant reptohumanoid in this episode was a cable-operated puppet. Moments after describing the puppet as "that 'rubber chicken,'" Ethan Phillips commented, "It took six guys to operate that chicken. Six guys and two girls, they were an eight-man team. There were all kinds of wires and levers and prods. It was very complicated but it was very realistic."

- This episode serves as a turning point in Neelix's possessiveness towards Kes, a quality in their relationship that can be seen in such previous episodes as "Phage", "Elogium" and "Twisted". Before working on this episode, Kes actress Jennifer Lien commented, "I think Kes and Neelix still need to explore some issues of trust. I think Neelix's jealousy is getting to be minimal because the character is learning. They've grown in this relationship. When it becomes too obsessive, it becomes scary, and I don't think that's what the character of Neelix is about." Following production on Voyager's second season, Ethan Phillips said of the writers, "This past year they have played up the jealousy aspect, but by the end of 'Parturition' I think Neelix basically said good-bye to that part of his character, and I don't think the writers are going to pick up on that so much anymore." Phillips further explained, "I think they've started to play that down. I think they've explored that as much as they've wanted to. Sometimes people liked it and sometimes it made for some tedious drama."

"Play something."

- Paris, to Kim indicating Kim's clarinet

"Play something different."

- Paris, to Kim after he plays a melody from the first movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major, KV622.

"I am a doctor... not a voyeur."

- The Doctor

Poster's Log:

Well. It's nice that the showrunners finally figured out that there was nothing cute or even particularly interesting about Neelix's jealousy and possessiveness, but I don't think that the framing of this episode--with it being seen primarily as a problem between Neelix and Tom--was really the way to go about it. In fact, the set-up makes Neelix look more like a dick than ever; the quote-endquote hospitality chief, or whatever title he made up for himself, throws food all over the ship's pilot for the high crime of sitting the next table over from his girlfriend. That's some junior high school cafeteria bullshit right there. Tom, the alleged bad boy of the crew, comes off much, much better here--trying (unsuccessfully) not to exacerbate things, then admitting to Neelix that, yes, he's attracted to Kes, but he's not going to act on it. (Well, he eventually does, in an alternate future. But anyway.) Kes' expression of frustration at Neelix's behavior is also welcome. (And let me call out what Jeri Taylor said as quoted above: "What is Kes going to say after a while? Stop being such an asshole? No." Well, why the hell not?) There's also the weirdness of the way that the spacefaring lizard-bird people go about gestating their young: leaving them unattended, on Planet Hell, without as much as a single sensor to act as a baby alarm. Who does that?

Positive points: it's nice to see them explore a planet that isn't either a class-M paradise or one that they have to wear spacesuits on. The idea of a planet with airborne nutrients is interesting, albeit a bit close to what the "breatharian" cranks believe. And that was one cute lil' baby.

Poster's log, supplemental: Since mordax has been mentioning Star Trek Online in his comments, I took it up again after a longish absence, and have been having quite a lot of fun--it's much less grindy than I remember, and I like the "Romulan Republic" storyline so far, so much so that I rolled another Romulan character so that I could have one in each faction. I may not get back to it much in the near future, as Mass Effect: Andromeda drops tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to doing so.
posted by Halloween Jack (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Agreed about Tom coming off pretty well here. I too find the manner in which they put down this Neelix triangle stuff a bit awkward, but I'm pleased that they had the perceptiveness to get it over with.

I wonder if the reptilian species in this is related in any way to the Voth. Maybe they are to the Voth what neanderthals are to us.

I took it up again after a longish absence, and have been having quite a lot of fun--it's much less grindy than I remember, and I like the "Romulan Republic" storyline so far, so much so that I rolled another Romulan character so that I could have one in each faction.

I should re-try the Romulan arc. But I would caution against the Klingon storyline. Maybe it was something on my end, but it grew so buggy as to become unplayable--like, I literally could not advance it. And to "re-rail," I will say that I've enjoyed the Voyager stuff in STO so far, though the Delta Quadrant is, heh, a minor inconvenience to get to.

SPAGHETT!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:28 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


I loved the scene at the beginning with Kim and Paris. It's these small moments where the show lets the characters breathes that give us a hint at what real life is like on a starship when they aren't encountering some gaseous alien or having a freak accident. They feel so real. It's part of what gave Firefly its charm. And it's something that Star Trek is almost always lacking. DS9 gave us a few. Gossiping in Ops. Teasing Worf. Nog and Jake just hanging out on the promenade. There hasn't been much of it in Voyager to this point.
posted by 2ht at 8:35 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Is this the place to say I'm watching Voyager for the first time, and Girls as it airs, and Hannah's father's partner sounded REAL familiar during this last episode...

Glad Neelix is still getting work!

It took me three more episodes to really come around to not loathing him - all to come. Glad they went in a different direction eventually.

I agree that the interpersonal relationships, the moments when characters breathe, are certainly my favorite parts of any show. I hope Voyager gets better at continuity in that regard (I'm nearing the end of season 2 now).
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 9:02 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Particle of the Week: Trigemic vapors.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Along with the expected races: Human, Klingon, Vulcan, etc., it is possible to create and play generic aliens with a pool of available traits and a wide range of appearances. Making someone from the unnamed race of lizard people would not be completely impossible in Star Trek Online, even though they are never even named.
Ongoing Equipment Tally:
* Photon Torpedoes: 37
* Shuttles: Down 3, as of this week.
* Crew: 151
* Bio-neural Gelpacks: 47
Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: still just 3.

Notes:
* The baby alien is adorable.

That crew of eight did a fantastic job. The baby was right out of Farscape or something. Kudos on making a baby reptilian alien so adorable, show. It was also the only thing I liked, this episode.

* The relationship stuff was hard to sit through.

I'm pretty much with the rest of you on that: Neelix is still a possessive dick, Tom Paris is all right, and making the episode all about the men with Kes literally unable to participate in the discussion was pretty disgusting.

I was also disgusting by Neelix just coming out and saying, "Plus, I did save her life!" like that was a good basis for a relationship.

* The talk with the Doctor made my skin crawl.

The whole thing, from him congratulating her because men were fighting over her, to scoffing at her harmonious depiction of Ocampan culture to the absolute worst line I think I've heard in Star Trek:
"You're only two years old. There may be a few things you don't know to look for in a man. In time, you'll understand."
That was like, a whole body shudder moment. The idea they thought that would be all right boggles the mind. Like, I want to watch Star Trek, not end up on a watch list, thanks.

This episode was all around ugly, except the stuff with the baby alien.

Since mordax has been mentioning Star Trek Online in his comments, I took it up again after a longish absence, and have been having quite a lot of fun--it's much less grindy than I remember, and I like the "Romulan Republic" storyline so far, so much so that I rolled another Romulan character so that I could have one in each faction. I may not get back to it much in the near future, as Mass Effect: Andromeda drops tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to doing so.

Neat!

Romulans are the master race in there, which I don't mind - they're my favorite antagonists in the show. (Never got all the love for Klingons when Romulans were right there.)

The storyline in STO is mostly pretty fun. I can name some spots that need improvement, (Operation Gamma is almost unplayable even when it's not bugged, and Boldly They Rode is about twice as long as it needs to be), but the story stuff is generally pretty cool. I'd characterize it as cohesive fanfic. Lots of little nods to stuff. I think my favorite location is a Section 31 vault of secret artifacts that's sort of the Trek version of Warehouse 13.

The game only gets grindy and pay-to-win if you want to participate in PVP or Elite queues, or if - like myself - you just want a lot of fancy toys and rare ships. Casual players can see all the story content without paying a dime or using anything better than regular gear drops.
posted by mordax at 9:44 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]


I can't be the only one who saw the Netflix summary for this episode and then just fervently hoped that the rest of Voyager would leave them on the itchy irritating planet. Kes and Harry could comfort each other after losing their shitty boyfriends and then move on to people who are not The Worst. And hey, I got the Kes and Harry comforting each other scene!

Tom Paris was not, in fact, The Worst in this one, but mostly because Neelix and the Doctor where competing for the honorable title of The Worst. This episode works as a very unfortunate case of explaining why people stay in abusive relationships - the Doctor explaining that controlling behavior is really a complement, and line about only being a two year old. . . I mean, not only is that fucking hypocritical and patronizing - dude has been online for, like, ten months - but it's essentially saying that women just shouldn't trust men that want to be their friends, that they have to protect themselves from the possibility of a sexual advance at all times . . . and coming from a male mouth, with that delivery - it sounds like that's the way it has to be. From a hypothetical female doctor or Janeway*, it might sound like more of a warning or a have tone of sympathy or something. I understand that there's a difference between what a writer believes and what comes out a character's mouth, but this did not come off as the Doctor being intentionally written as a scumbag - it came off as the writers thinking that the Doctor was giving good fatherly advice.

As well as: "What is Kes going to say after a while? Stop being such an asshole? No." Well, why the hell not? Because it wouldn't be nice. If Kes stood up for herself, then she would be objecting to someone who is giving her a complement, and her character is too nice to do that. And it wouldn't come off as right - She'd either be too forceful, or not forceful enough. So she gets to be upset, but then told by nice fatherly figures that she doesn't really have a reason to be upset (though Harry understands).

Tom Paris is coming off as a relatively nonscuzzy human being. Though Tom, I also found that all of my crushes were on unattainable/unavailable people when trying to come to terms with my sexuality. It's a common queer avoidance tactic. The scene where Tom was asking Harry to play moodier clarinet is even funnier when you realize that moody clarinet is essentially a noir/detective soundtrack, and they keep on trying to give Tom a dark-ish characterization and it not sticking.

*With B'Ellana, I would expect it to be followed up with a full complement of self-defense moves.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:43 AM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Oh also!

There's also the weirdness of the way that the spacefaring lizard-bird people go about gestating their young: leaving them unattended, on Planet Hell, without as much as a single sensor to act as a baby alarm. Who does that?

This doesn't seem that weird to me, the nutrient acid vapor acts as a deterrent for most prey, and a lot of species lay a bunch of eggs in a semi-protected area and then fuck off to wherever else, maybe coming back to check in once they're born, sometimes not.

Though usually species that do this sort of thing lay hundreds of eggs at a time, most of which don't hatch or last through the first few days. That's a lot of dead lizard puppets. :(

And I just noticed that Trekabout is starting Voyager.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:06 AM on March 21


and coming from a male mouth, with that delivery - it sounds like that's the way it has to be.

It sounded even worse than that to me, based partly on this:
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.
EMH: Hmm. Your world must have very dry literature.
Given Kes' bafflement about Neelix's behavior and her calm demeanor, I think she might be either entirely or mostly right about Ocampans. (I'll have to compare this to the episode with more Ocampans that's coming up.)

Either way, he just made 'no jealousy and no envy' sound not only silly, but like an actual bad thing. He wasn't like, 'must be nice.' He was like, 'you poor guys and your dull poets.'

this did not come off as the Doctor being intentionally written as a scumbag - it came off as the writers thinking that the Doctor was giving good fatherly advice.

Yep. This was horrible partly for how out of character it sounded for the Doctor, actually. Even if the content hadn't been so dreadful, the fact he has an opinion is still out of character. He normally doesn't understand or much care about interpersonal relationships.

Here, he's clearly speaking for the skeevy, horrible authors, like you said.
posted by mordax at 1:15 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Given Kes' bafflement about Neelix's behavior and her calm demeanor, I think she might be either entirely or mostly right about Ocampans. (I'll have to compare this to the episode with more Ocampans that's coming up.)

It's possible - from a biological standpoint, if your life cycle is short and you give birth only once midway through your life cycle probably to a litter, it makes sense that you might want to make sure that there's enough communal feeling that your partner will care each other long enough to make sure they reach middle age, then continue to support each other through pregnancy and children. Also, a lot of animals that give birth to litters can incorporate genetic materials from more than one father into a litter.

It's also possible that the caretaker encouraged docility.

But the other thing is that Kes is young, and she was even younger when she stopped living with the Ocampans. It's possible that her idea of what an Ocampan relationship is that of a child's because she hasn't really interacted with them since she was a child, though again, it is really unclear what developmental age the writer's thought she was at when she met Neelix, or even what developmental age she is at now.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:13 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


I can't say I totally buy Piller's claim that he wrote this episode to "fix" some problems with Neelix given how poorly Neelix comes off here, acting by turns petulant and aggressive with Paris even in crisis situations while Paris is trying to act in a professional manner. Paris gets a much better characterization bounce out of this episode than Neelix. Tom's actually pretty enjoyable here, especially in his scene with Harry, but overall comes across rather decently within the narrowish boundaries of the ideological limitations of the writing.

The writing is the big problem here as has been noted, with some of the various discussions having some potential for exploring different takes on relationships, but each instead leading to roughly the same end conservatism. The doctor's talk started out with some promise in his discussion of relationships based on autopsies, which if left as an example of his limited understanding being a "new born" himself, could have worked well, but to segue from his initial comments into a lecture for Kes in the manner they chose simply makes no sense for him or as good advice and there is no real solid suggestion that it isn't meant to be taken at face value. His initial comments, one might think, could color what he says later, but the tone doesn't really support that very well and Kes not getting any meaningful rejoinder to his talk leaves it feeling like it was meant to be sage advice. The comment on Ocampan literature is the same joke Chakotay used with Tuvok, but here it comes off much worse, not for being less "true" in its way, but for the suggestion that Kes or women in general should somehow put up with Neelixing for the sake of "good literature".

I'm not keen on Kes' claims on Ocampan life either, I mean, sure, it's a possible scenario for a species that only mates once, at least for offspring, but given her own attitude shown towards the Ocampans who weren't willing to question the Caretaker, it seems as much an easy way to again champion conservatism in relationships as the ideal as it does a trait Kes would adopt without challenge.

I would have liked to see Kes go to Janeway about her problems with Neelix, or have Janeway go to her after the Paris and Neelix fight to discuss the matter before sending the two of them off on an away mission together, even as telling the two of them to deal with it seemed perfectly fine and captainly. Janeway comes off pretty well in the moments she has in the episode, but given how she responded to Kes when Kes was going through the changes in preparation for mating, Janeway should have been more directly involved in this set of situations as well for it to all work better.

It also doesn't help that the opening with Paris and Kes comes off as more like a couple that could enjoy each others company than anything we've seen so far in the show's run with her and Neelix. I mean Kes and Paris actually do seem like a more sensible match than Neelix and Kes or Paris and B'Elanna in many ways both in their more positive attributes and in their weaknesses. Neelix actually plays better as the "ladies man" type not needing commitment, since, like with his attitude towards food, he's able to appreciate the best attributes without the same sort of prejudices the rest of the crew shows. We see some of this later for his character and I wish that's where they would have gone from the beginning instead of trying to make sense of a relationship that is so fundamentally flawed. It would have given more space to look into the unusual nature of the Ocampan lifespan and Kes' attitudes as Paris would be a better option for exploring those differences than the already formed relationship with Neelix. Alas, a path not taken though...

The set up for getting Paris and Neelix on the planet together worked pretty well, though, really, sending just two of them to an unknown and possibly hostile planet is maybe not the best move. The basic plotting of interactions and decision making made much of the episode more enjoyable than one might expect given the values being espoused. While Neelix is pretty insufferable, the episode still plays well enough in that way, so Piller deserves credit for that aspect anyway.

The baby reptilian is a weird little side plot though in that there is so often some connection established between the internal and external struggles that having Paris and Neelix raise a baby comes off as being something like Neelix's relationship with Kes is justifiable either because he's more "fatherly", which isn't a great read given Kes' much commented upon age, or because he'd be a better father, which is to suggest a relationship is about making babies. Or, I guess, that Neelix is like the baby and worried about being rejected by mothering Kes, but that too isn't something I really want to explore much either.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:51 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I liked the little touch where Harry recommends Paris take in some Moliere on the holodeck. Harry the classicist follows well on the Beowulf episode earlier, and would be truly amusing if one assumes he was gonna set Tom up to take on a role in Moliere's School for Wives, which has the following plot:

Arnolphe, the main protagonist, is a man of 42 years who has groomed the young Agnès since the age of 4. Arnolphe supports Agnès living in a nunnery until the age of 17, when he removes her and moves her to one of his abodes, which he keeps under the name of Monsieur de la Souche. His intention is to bring up Agnès in such a manner that she will be too ignorant to be unfaithful to him and he becomes obsessed with avoiding this fate. To this end, he forbids the nuns who are instructing her from teaching her anything that might lead her astray. Right from the very first scene, Chrysalde warns Arnolphe of his downfall, but Arnolphe takes no heed.

After Agnès moves into Arnolphe's house, Horace arrives on the scene ahead of his father, Arnolphe's friend, Oronte. Horace immediately falls in love with Agnès and she with him. Not realizing that Arnolphe and Monsieur de la Souche are the same person, Horace unwittingly confides all his activities with Agnès to Arnolphe. Arnolphe then schemes to outmaneuver Horace and ensure that Agnès will marry him.


per Wikipedia
posted by gusottertrout at 12:20 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


Arnolphe, the main protagonist, is a man of 42 years who has groomed the young Agnès since the age of 4. Arnolphe supports Agnès living in a nunnery until the age of 17, when he removes her and moves her to one of his abodes, which he keeps under the name of Monsieur de la Souche. His intention is to bring up Agnès in such a manner that she will be too ignorant to be unfaithful to him and he becomes obsessed with avoiding this fate.

Hhhhhhhuh.
*wonders for three seconds if the VOY writers intended this connection*
Nnnaaahhh!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:20 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


I can't say I totally buy Piller's claim that he wrote this episode to "fix" some problems with Neelix given how poorly Neelix comes off here, acting by turns petulant and aggressive with Paris even in crisis situations while Paris is trying to act in a professional manner. Paris gets a much better characterization bounce out of this episode than Neelix. Tom's actually pretty enjoyable here, especially in his scene with Harry, but overall comes across rather decently within the narrowish boundaries of the ideological limitations of the writing.

I can buy it, actually, in that the way in which Neelix's feelings are 'fixed,' to me, reads as if Piller felt that the problem with Neelix (such as it was) was that he was misreading Paris, and that -- now that he understood that Tom wasn't going to try to romance Kes -- he had no real reason to be jealous. Whereas, I see Neelix's problem as the response to that misreading, not the misreading itself (and also a bunch of other relationship stuff, BUT.)

Walking back to that quote upthread from Jeri Taylor: "So we were looking for a way for Paris and Neelix to resolve their differences and this plot worked out very nicely." They do! But whereas I was hoping (originally, and now) that they would resolve this by having Neelix, perhaps, mature as a person, instead they resolve that bitterness by removing the core of it, the idea that Paris might try to break Neelix and Kes up. Contrary to the statements from the cast that Neelix is shown to have learned and grown, I really don't see that here at all -- I see that he's learnt that Paris isn't competing with him, but that's not really the same thing at all.

Fundamentally, it's tough to get past the issue that the Neelix/Kes relationship is deeply problematical on several levels -- already discussed at length. Tom Paris definitely comes off as better, here, than I was expecting; but it would have been even better, in a way, if he actually was trying to break Kes and Neelix up, as a friend to Kes. As it stands, centering the episode on the relationship between Neelix and Paris -- without substantively touching on or questioning the relationship between Kes and Neelix -- doesn't work, and can't work.
posted by cjelli at 12:09 PM on May 2 [2 favorites]


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