Star Trek: Voyager: Once Upon a Time   Rewatch 
December 7, 2017 3:27 AM - Season 5, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Good night moon… Good night shuttlecraft… Good night ion storm… Good night Mom, buried under the moon…

Memory Alpha reminds holodeck users to passcode-encrypt all programs not intended for children. And some that are.

- In common with the second season Star Trek: Voyager episode "Investigations", the narrative of this installment was originally to have been from a limited viewpoint prior to an expansion of the episode's perspective. Scripter Michael Taylor explained, "The notion initially was much bolder. It was going to be real 'Alice in Wonderland', with Neelix and Naomi in this make-believe world for almost the entire show." Supervising Producer Joe Menosky offered, "[Executive producer] Brannon [Braga] wanted to do the entire thing in a holodeck fantasy. Voyager was going through a war outside that we only caught glimpses of." Michael Taylor wrote a first draft script from this confined vantage point. As Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was meanwhile focusing intensively on the Dominion War, however, Executive Producer Rick Berman opted not to feature the proposed engagement here. "Rick Berman just didn't want to see 'wars' on both Star Trek series," Menosky recalled. "He rejected that idea." Thus, Voyager's writing staff decided to replace the plot thread about the conflict with the idea of a shuttle crash, essentially enlarging the episode's point of view.

- As Michael Taylor was left with the task of working the shuttle crash into the script and time was running out, the teleplay was revised by committee. Remembered Joe Menosky, "We had very little time to do a second draft. Basically everybody jumped in with Mike. As a result of this gang writing fashion, Taylor's original vision and execution of the fairy tale in itself was lost."

- This episode marks the debut of Scarlett Pomers in the role of the young Naomi Wildman, who had previously been played by Brooke Stephens in VOY: "Mortal Coil". When Pomers appeared in this outing, she was under the impression it would be her only Voyager appearance. However, she continued in the role through the rest of the series.

- Joe Menosky was mostly disappointed with how this episode wound up, characterizing the shuttle crash as a "half-baked" idea. He went on to say, "What [Michael] Taylor was stuck with was not as good as it would have been if somehow we had done Brannon [Braga]'s original inspiration [....] I think the episode suffered as a result [of losing Taylor's initial vision and execution of the fairy tale]. I think what's finally on the screen is not nearly as interesting as Mike's first draft."

- Brannon Braga recognized that among this episode's fans were people who were closely associated with children: "We got great feedback from parents and teachers, who said they very much enjoyed the way children's stories were represented as learning experiences."

- The scene in which Naomi Wildman and Seven of Nine meet in the mess hall was regarded as so successful that it ended up influencing subsequent episodes. Brannon Braga commented, "[It] was so charming that we would end up exploring that relationship for episodes to come."

- Chronologically, this is the last appearance of Samantha Wildman on the series. Nancy Hower would subsequently make one more appearance on the series in "Fury", though this was in scenes that took place in 2371.

- Harry Kim, Samantha Wildman, and Captain Janeway mention that they thoroughly enjoyed the Flotter "holostories" when they were children, with Janeway claiming to have flooded the entire Forest of Forever when she was six. This suggests that some form of holographic technology was in use as a recreational device for children long before holodecks were in use on starships.

"My youngest child has been without a father for four years... yet I am certain of her well-being; that I conveyed my values to her before leaving, and I have confidence in the integrity of those around her. You have been an exemplary mother to Naomi and she is in the hands of people you trust. She will survive, and prosper no matter what becomes of us."
"Thanks, Tuvok."

- Ensign Wildman and Tuvok

"I'd forgotten how ugly this guy was."

- Harry Kim, about the children's holo-character "Flotter"

"I realize you care about Naomi, and you are only trying to protect her. But you've got to tell her the truth."
(Flustered) "'Good morning, Naomi. Would you like some papalla juice with your cereal? And, oh, by the way, your mother is buried under 30 kilotons of rock!'
"When we know something for sure; when we find her mother, alive... or dead... I'll–I'll tell her then. Not before."
"If you can't do it, I will."
"You don't have the right! You don't understand what's at stake here! When you were her age you were safe and sound on Earth with two healthy parents to take care of you. You never had to worry about the possibility of being alone! You take it from me; you wouldn't have liked it!"

- Janeway and Neelix

Poster's Log:
There are at least a couple of occasions following this episode where the writers use the Naomi Wildman character as a generic "cute kid" insert, like a Wallace Beery film (per Barton Fink) or sitcom that's run for too many seasons. Nevertheless, the character's got an above-average child actor playing her, and she gets an actual story in this episode.

And as off-the-beaten-path as this one is, I consider it a success on its own terms. I also wonder if this episode might be the reason that the Naomi character never particularly grated on me (well, this one and the previous big Naomi appearance, "Mortal Coil, which also did not lack for gravitas). Combining the Flotter stuff with Naomi's mom in peril is a good choice, giving some dramatic heft to a story whose outcome we are already certain of even if we've never seen this one—which must mean the writers managed to induce audience investment into Naomi. Some good moments for the regulars in this one too, particularly Neelix and Tuvok.

The holoprogram itself strikes me as a quite plausible bit of Trek worldbuilding, and (having seen my share of unwatchable kids' fare) comparatively tolerable to the kids and parents in-universe. Flotter and Trevis are a little bit unnatural and disturbing, like so many characters in kiddie entertainment, but not TOO unnatural and disturbing, like the eldritch human/train hybrid abominations of Shining Time Station—or those things with the TV screens in their bellies like ersatz Krangs.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Scarlett Pomers (Naomi) is also known for her role on the TV series Reba, and has her own band too. Wikipedia says she successfully battled anorexia and started an organization to help others battling it. Always nice to see a child actor emerge intact and healthy from the showbiz machine.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (8 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This one definitely goes in the "improves on rewatch" column. Pomers is great, and keeps Naomi from being a Cousin Oliver, and I especially liked how she reacts to Seven, both in the context of her ensuing friendship with her, and how it reminds me of my memories of adults who intimidated me as a child at first. In fact, lots of the episode rings true with my memories of childhood; the Flotter and Trevis show could have been a Sid & Marty Krofft show like H.R. Pufnstuf or Lidsville--well, maybe a bit less, ah, psychedelic--and Naomi's fears that Seven might assimilate her is like how I cross-pollinated a plot point from H.R. Pufnstuf about the mushrooms that could turn you into a mushroom if you touched them with my belief that Josie and the Pussycats were actual werecats, and was afraid of an older cousin who looked like Josie because I thought that she might turn me into a catboy. (No, I'm not kidding. Cringing a little inside thinking about it, but not kidding.)

And it's blended in very, very well with Neelix's established backstory and how he's still processing a lot of his own issues. This does dovetail very neatly with "Mortal Coil", and I'm glad that they went with the smaller B-story, since having a war going on in the background would have been more of a distraction, and showing the shuttle crew methodically preparing for their own deaths as the rescuers struggled to get to them ahead of the storm was more appropriate for the main plot. No lie, I had tears in my eyes as Samantha was taping the message for her daughter. It's a damn dirty shame that the series didn't make better/more frequent use of Nancy Hower, but we've been over VOY's problems with using secondary characters before.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:05 AM on December 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Star Trek writers tend to not write well for little children. The kids tend to either be little geniuses or irritating. Or they'll be used solely as a plot device.

Naomi: "I don't like Sickbay."
Neelix: "Why not?"
Naomi: "It's full of creepy things. Alien organs and hyposprays."
Neelix: "Well, that's not true."
Naomi: "And the Doctor talks too much."
Neelix: "Well, that's his way."
Naomi: "Can't you reprogram him or something?"
Neelix: "Oh, I don't think he'd like that very much. Come on."

Scarlett Pomers shines here, and that's a credit to both the writing and her talents. The scenes with Seven of Nine rang very true for a kid her age. And this exchange was just perfect:

The Doctor: "Now, see the organelle just over there? The one that looks like a little bitty potato?"
Naomi: "The mitochondria?"
The Doctor: "Yes."
Naomi: "Mitochondria. The warp core of the cell."
The Doctor: "Exactly. Now what if I told you that this fellow was invited to dinner, but never got around to leaving?
Naomi: "What do you mean?"
The Doctor: "Well, turn back the clock a few billion years to when cells first evolved. These early cells had no mitochondria. They struggled along without them, making do with whatever energy sources they could find. Then, one day a mitochondrial ancestor arrived, broke though the cell wall, and made himself at home."
Naomi: "They became friends?"
The Doctor: "The correct term is symbiosis."
Naomi: "Friends."
The Doctor: "Friends."
Naomi: "My mom says cooperation is more important than competition."
The Doctor: "Mmm hmm."
Naomi: "She was supposed to call me today."
The Doctor: "Well, she's probably just a little busy. Now, let's have a look at the cell wall. It looks simple enough, but believe you me there's more here than meets the eye."
Naomi: "Can we try to call her?"
[Neelix enters.]
The Doctor: "Neelix, what a pleasure to see you!"
Neelix: "How was school today?"
Naomi: "Good."
Neelix: "There's a time for school, and there's a time for..."
Naomi: "Flotter!"
[Naomi runs for the door.]
Neelix: "Aren't you forgetting something?"
Naomi: "Oh. Thank you, Doctor."
The Doctor: "You're quite welcome, Miss Wildman."

Coincidentally, my kids are learning about symbiosis in Science class right now. I had forgotten about this scene. It was nice to see these little touches. That she's being taught by the Doctor, etc. The 'warp core of the cell' line cracked me up. The Doctor's gentle, respectful formality -- he has a wonderful manner with children, which one wouldn't expect. And that everyone is protecting and distracting her from worrying about her mom.

The drama of the episode was contrived. Yet another shuttle crash. And of the Delta Flyer, no less. Half the senior staff aboard so we know they're not going to perish. But as a vehicle for Naomi Wildman and Neelix, it's excellent. And as a parent, any time you have a show where a parent may lose their life orphaning their child, it pulls hard at your emotions.

About Neelix. The scene between him and Janeway is excellent. The highlight of the show. But there was a quiet scene with Harry -- where the Ensign is making Naomi a Flotter doll -- that was also subtle and well done.

Ensign Kim: "Neelix, what's wrong?"
Neelix: "Everything. Everything's wrong! Ion storms, crash landings, alien attacks. A starship's no place for a child."
Ensign Kim: "I don't know. I'd say Naomi's pretty lucky to be growing up on Voyager."
Neelix: "Lucky?"
Ensign Kim: "Think about it. Think about all the things she's experienced, stars being born, supernovas, lifeforms no one from the Alpha Quadrant has seen before. When I was a kid I would have given anything for a chance like this. Well, here goes."
[The replicator produces a stuffed Flotter doll.]
Ensign Kim: "Hi, Neelix. Did you miss me? You know, I forgot how ugly this guy was."
Neelix: "Thanks, Ensign."

We're getting to see Naomi's childhood through the eyes of multiple characters here, as well as our own. To the Doctor, she's a child he is teaching and treats with respect. Janeway knows she's "astute". To Harry, she's living his childhood dream -- and everything else that could happen to her is secondary. To Neelix, she's a child who needs to be protected from the dangers of the world, and life on Voyager puts her closer to those dangers. Also, the very real danger that she might lose her mom remains foremost on his mind. Which as Halloween Jack notes, meshes perfectly with his backstory. Neelix and Naomi also discuss his sisters, which gives subtle emphasis to the idea that she is now a part of his family.

All of these perspectives are true to a point, but they're only part of Naomi's experiences. The audience gets a fuller perspective of her. She's an intelligent, observant girl who acts her age. She's growing up in an environment that has wonderful opportunities, but is also dangerous. And the adults around her are doing their best to help shepherd her through childhood.

I liked this episode when it first aired, and I liked it now, seeing it for the first time as a parent.
posted by zarq at 8:36 AM on December 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh, thanks for reminding me of that "A starship's no place for a child" line; I took it as a reference to "Rocket Man": "Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids/ In fact it's cold as hell/ And there's no one there to raise them if you did."
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:42 AM on December 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Forgot to mention... the writers wrote her dialogue in such a way that she speaks and acts the way kids normally do. My kids acted the same way when they were 5 or 6. They sometimes act that way now. It made the episode feel much more real for me.
posted by zarq at 8:43 AM on December 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I completely missed that! Nice!
posted by zarq at 8:44 AM on December 7, 2017

Particle of the Week: Not applicable.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Naomi Wildman is still kicking in the era of Star Trek Online.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 4.
* Crew: 135.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

* I also like this one.

It's true that the shuttle crash is an uninspired choice for how to endanger Samantha Wildman, but it was totally beside the point - this was a good story about 'how do we treat children?' I liked it because while I have a strong opinion and side completely with a few of the characters, I can still empathize with the perspectives I disagree with.

As with last time, I'm a fan of radical honesty with children. I received it, I treasure it. I feel like Janeway's completely correct here. I also bounced around a lot as a child, and think Harry Kim is right about what a marvelous opportunity Voyager represents for Naomi over and above the rest of them... but it's easy to see why Neelix feels the way he does, and he doesn't come off as badly at all. Nothing unrealistic about his perspective even though I think it's wrong. (I was a lot harder on him in Mortal Coil, but it's because he does agree that Naomi needs to know the truth here, he's wanting to put it off - that's a way less problematic take on this sort of issue.)

I also like the details: the holoprogram really is like modern entertainment for kids, Naomi's dialogue is believable, her performance is stellar, etc. (I also googled Porter after watching, and was relieved to see her doing well.)

* Tuvok is pretty great here.

I love the Tuvok stuff in this episode. He's right. He's helpful. His attitude's healthy. It was good to see him helping Tom and Samantha.

So... yeah. Again with 'this was pretty good, not a ton of critique for me here.'
posted by mordax at 3:07 PM on December 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

In finest Trek fashion, the crew immediately crashes their brand new, high-tech shuttle!
posted by 2ht at 4:02 PM on December 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Y'all have done an excellent job talking about this episode so far. It is a good continuity episode, tying in to Neelix's previous history in Mortal Coil and Night and points forward to the Haunting of Deck 12 among other episodes for Neelix and Naomi. It also fits in the larger theme they've been developing on being alone in the Delta quadrant and the effect the stress is having on the crew, which they started near the end of last season. The focus on these smaller scale continuity stories and bigger scale allegories for their journey are not only a sign of renewed and somewhat changed focus for the series coming from yet another new showrunner, but also indicate some greater interest in dealing with the ongoing personal consequences of events they hadn't looked at before here or the other series which had more stable circumstances. It's a good run and a solid choice, even if they muck it up a bit in some of the episodes to come with poorly thought through detail.

This is actually one of my favorite episodes from Voyager, though as much in its larger context than as a stand alone alone. Heh. It isn't as singularly dramatic as Mortal Coil and some others that don't require as much context, but that is part of why I favor this one, along with the elements of craft and some greater insight into the world of Trek in a way. The use of the holodeck here and Naomi's story help suggest a bit about "regular" life in the Federation, where the separation between the space action and homelife shown gesture a bit towards what normal life is like off the ship. It's one of the best uses of the holodeck in the franchise, not for the drama, but the normality of it. That the rest of the crew also has memories of it too goes to normalizing its usage and, through implicit contrast, shows the more involved stories as exotic just as life on Voyager is compared to living on Earth and raising a family there.

I also think adding Naomi Wildman as a semi-major reoccurring character was a boon for the show. It not only helps stabilize Neelix's character, but she provides good counterpoint to Seven, who is, in the shows terms, not too far removed from Naomi's experience in many ways in adjusting to social life. Having Naomi helps to ground Seven as a character, showing their shared lack of social experience, while still allowing Seven to be an adult rather than a childwoman most of the time, something that was a serious problem for the character. It of course helps a lot that Naomi's character is generally well written and even more that Pomers plays her very well. It's a bit weird I suppose that her mom, Samantha, doesn't show up a lot in the rest of the series, but I have to say Nancy Hower did tend to play her in a bit too deer in the headlights kinda way, where it always looked like Nancy/Samantha wanted nothing so much as to bolt from whatever scene she was in as quickly as possible. The writers didn't do her any favors in giving her such bland dialogue of course, but it was still a bit offputting. This is probably her best outing, and still she doesn't get much to do other than express some worry and thank Tuvok, but she at least gets a brief good bye monologue to Naomi, which was nice, though perhaps not as expressive as one might hope for.

Janeway, Tuvok, Seven, and Paris all get some good use here, along with Neelix, though obviously more briefly, Janeway showing concern for Neelix while still maintaining her position, Tuvok giving the, yeah, we might die, but Naomi will be fine speech, Tom being a bit snarky with Tuvok and giving a bye-bye B'Elanna monologue, and Seven's exchange with Neelix and brief encounter with Naomi being amusing. Tying the Flotter story to Neelix's history with the Great Tree and the forest, even tying his dream this time to the holostory and the previous dreams is really a nice touch for both continuity and episode reasons.

There may not be anything exceptionally exciting about this episode in the most obvious sense, but I think of it as being an exceptional episode for the series in many more subtle ways and still count it as one of my personal highlights from Voyager's run. It'll likely show up in my list of faves, something I assume we'll be doing at the end of the run.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:41 PM on December 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

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