Star Trek: Voyager: Phage   Rewatch 
January 16, 2017 7:41 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

This episode starts off with a very sitcommy bit about Neelix's cooking (which will become a recurring bit), but takes a very hard left turn into horror with the introduction of a strong contender for the title of Trek's Nastiest Villains, the Vidiians.

Memory Alpha knocks on your door, wants to know if they can "borrow" a cup of lung:

- Brannon Braga recalled, "Around that time, Jeri [Taylor], Michael [Piller] and I had been batting around the idea of an alien race that gathers organs." Braga elaborated, "It just so happened at that time we were brainstorming about the Vidiians, a race of aliens who harvest flesh and organs." Remembering how they came up with this notion, Jeri Taylor stated, "We sat around a number of days talking about new adversaries. 'Who's interesting? What's interesting? What's an agenda we find interesting?' En route we came to these people who harvested organs. We'd gone through cannibalism and a lot more bizarre things and then we finally hit on the idea of a culture that was dying of an incurable virus that would go to any lengths to make themselves and their species stay alive."

- Two historical points of reference influenced the producers' thinking, at about this time: Jeri Taylor originally, according to Brannon Braga, suggested the Mayans which – with their seemingly horrific and eccentric culture, including Human sacrifice and cannibalism, but their ideological reasons for such bloodshed – provided an inspiration, and Braga himself thereafter began to speculate about how humanity and, in particular, Europeans would currently be if the Bubonic Plague had never been eradicated. Regarding his motives at the time, Braga remembered, "I thought it would be interesting to create a species that was really creepy-looking and Frankenstein-like, with cobbled together body parts and they steal organs, but they had a very sympathetic back-story."

- The desperation of the aliens attracted the producers to using them as so-called villains. Jeri Taylor explained, "The idea of a race that does really unspeakably horrible things but does them simply because they're trying to survive, we thought was a very complex kind of agenda [....] If you start with a premise like that, it's impossible to make them completely evil because their motivation is completely understandable. If anything, it's more scary if you realize that underneath that grotesque, deformed body there's someone who was once young, strong and beautiful." Michael Piller offered, "I liked the idea of an alien culture who are a civilized people who are forced to do uncivilized things in order to survive."

- Actress Kate Mulgrew found difficulty in acting out the particular scene wherein Janeway – realizing what the Vidiians are doing – is both repulsed by and sympathetic to their actions. Of the scene, Jeri Taylor remarked, "We thought Janeway was put in a true dilemma when she realized what she was dealing with. In fact, Kate Mulgrew was herself fighting tears when that scene was being shot, when she heard the story of those people. She, as a person, was so genuinely affected that she was really fighting not to break down. I think that comes across in the portrayal of a woman who is torn and struggling and has great sympathy for these aliens, yet she must say, 'If you ever come near my people again, I'm going to wipe you all out.'"

- This episode has repeatedly been likened to the original Star Trek episode "Spock's Brain".

- This is the first of several Voyager episodes in which The Doctor uses the snowclone "I'm a doctor, not a...", a catchphrase that was originated by Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the original Star Trek series.

"The man drives a 700,000-ton starship, so someone thinks he'd make a good medic."

- The Doctor, on Tom Paris

"First they tell me there's no doctor, so I have to be on call 24 hours a day and then they tell me there's no nurses, so I have no one to assist me."
"I thought Tom Paris was assigned to you."
"Like I said, no one to assist me."

- The Doctor and Kes

"Indefinitely? You mean I... could be in here the rest of my life?"
"Yes."
"But we're trying to find the aliens that did this to you. The captain is doing everything she can."
"Well... hrm, if I'm going be in here a while, now is as good a time as any to tell you. Your ceiling is hideous."
"I didn't design the room, I just work here."
"Something with a bit of color would help, maybe a nice tapestry or a painting. Could you dim the lights a little?"
"I'm a doctor, mister Neelix, not a decorator."

- Neelix, The Doctor, and Kes

"Strange, according to my readings, you are not here."
"Believe me, I wish I weren't."

- Dereth and The Doctor

Poster's log:

The Vidiians! I'm dead serious (heh) that I think that they rank with the Borg, those bug-body-snatcher things from "Conspiracy", the salt vampire, and Trek's other creepiest bad dudes. Cannibals are almost preferable to people who yank your organs right out of your body and graft them onto and into themselves; future VOY episodes (and there are only a handful that feature the Vidiians, which enhances their effectiveness) will make very good, very icky use of this. And I also agree with the background quotes above about how the show does a good job of balancing horror and rage at what they're doing with a certain amount of pity, although I think that it tends more toward the former, given that the Vidiians don't exactly ask for donations. (There's also the big unanswered question of why a race with such advanced medical technology can't just clone replacement organs, especially after the revelations of "Faces" later on this season, but the real impact of what they do is pretty much immune to logic.) There's also some nice bits about how they lure in victims, with the fake-dilithium honey pot and the hall-of-mirrors hollow asteroid.

Most of the episode is taken up with the Delta Quadrant production of Whose Life Is It Anyway?, starring Neelix, Kes, the Doctor, and Tom Paris. This episode had the potential to really establish Neelix as a sympathetic character and a counterpoint to both the Starfleet and the Maquis, but he loses a lot of ground with his jealousy attack. Having a disabled protagonist who isn't a saint isn't necessarily a bad thing--the protagonist of WLIIA isn't--but Neelix isn't in the holo-iron lung very long before he starts suspecting Kes of getting together with the ship's resident cool jerk. The people who come off better are Kes, who has some good moments, and the Doctor, who is beginning his character arc nicely by starting to rise above his job description. (The snowcloning of Bones' tagline is completely apropos; the EMH was literally made specifically to be an EMH. There was a bit in the last episode, I think, where he says something like, "What do you want me to do, sing?" He'll get to that, too.)

Poster's Log, Supplemental: One thing that bugs me about Neelix's locavorism is that you rarely if ever actually see him or anyone else actually buying or gathering foodstuffs; the hydroponics facility covers some of that, but those plants had to come from somewhere, and I doubt they got a crop this quickly.
posted by Halloween Jack (33 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
IIRC we do actually see Neelix gathering leola root a few episodes from now.

Really good concept in this episode and overall solid execution. I like that they started giving Neelix some gravitas pretty early. It's a shame he kind of snaps under the pressure, as Jack mentioned.

Given the body horror inherent to the Vidiians, I had to check MA to confirm that Bryan Fuller wasn't somehow involved in the concept (since he did both the Hannibal TV show and two of the more gothic DS9 episodes, "Empok Nor" and "The Darkness and the Light"). But he doesn't show up in VOY until season 4, it seems.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:03 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the Vidiians were inspired, kind of like the Borg but even more violating and gross and pitiful. They were individuals, you could talk to them and try to reason with them, but they were still gonna steal your eyeballs. Even their weapons are creepy as hell, those combo gun/tricorders with two pointy piercer things like a chigger.

I've always thought Neelix was super underrated as a character. Trekkies act like he's Jar-Jar Binks or something and he's a lot more complicated and darker than that. Neelix is a charmer and an optimist with a lot of rage and despair buried deep down. It doesn't come out often, but when it does he can get nasty fast. When he finds out he may be stuck in the sick bay for life his first instinct is to minimize the terror of it with jokes about the decor, but finally it comes out in this ugly jealousy about Paris. People only seem to remember the jolly "Hello, Mr. Vulcan" stuff, but Neelix was always fighting to cover a real dark side.

The relationship between Kes and Neelix never quite clicked, and IIRC it ended when Kes was possessed by some alien warlord and callously dumped Neelix and then we just never saw them get back together. So it was like we could never quite buy them as a couple and even their breakup just kind of... happened. Neelix definitely got more interesting after the Kes stuff, and I don't think anybody was sorry to see the end of the Kes/Neelix/Paris triangle.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:45 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


The relationship between Kes and Neelix never quite clicked

I always thought it was super fucking creepy, since Neelix is presumably like 40 years old and Kes is literally 3.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:32 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


Well, she's only three by our years. Going by the Ocampan lifespan and her maturity level she's an adult, and if she'd stayed on the show she would have eventually been like 80 when Neelix was only three seasons older than he'd been when the show started. I'm sure they had all these plans for the pathos of watching the relationship shift from younger woman/older warthog to dying old woman/younger warthog, but it just wasn't playing. I think everybody liked Kes, but she was a bit bland and the show did improve when she left and 7 of 9 came aboard.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:47 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Oh! I just finished watching this 3 minutes ago. It is actually one of my favourite episodes. I really like the complexity of the resolution.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:43 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Particle of the Week: Unexpectedly inapplicable.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Many other horrifying villains make an appearance in Star Trek Online, but to date, the Vidiians have only received a name check. Presumably, it's because their abilities don't model well in an MMO.

Real observations:
* Janeway still needs a better approach to crew integration.

This is a topic I've been on about since the pilot, and will probably be complaining about for some time to come. Janeway keeps acting like everyone's going to behave like Starfleet officers just because the uniforms match, and this episiode is another good example of that being dangerously wishful thinking.

Neelix has already demonstrated untrustworthiness: he lied to them, got them into a lasting conflict with the Kazon that could've been avoided and tried to abandon them, and that was all just within the pilot. This episode, he rerouted ship's systems and commandeered a room without even asking. Allowing him to go with the survey team was a potentially justifiable decision, as it was supposed to be uninhabited. Letting him go anywhere *unsupervised* was basically asking for something horrible to happen. I appreciated that they went ahead and dragged that out, showing just how much he doesn't listen.

He should've been on the buddy system out there.

The worst part is, the alternate approach - interviewing people and slotting them where and how they fit - is continuing to pay dividends with Torres in the background of this episode. Janeway approached Torres correctly, and is now getting suggestions that void Voyager's warranty, but via proper channels so that they can be evaluated. Kes receives similar treatment in this episode, and it was good to see: the Doctor recognizes her potential and works out a method for her to contribute that doesn't exceed her abilities.

Neelix did have a lot of potential value to the crew and should've been kept on board, but he needed a much shorter leash starting about five minutes after he invited himself to stay on board.

* On that note: gah, Neelix remains the worst.

I've always thought Neelix was super underrated as a character. Trekkies act like he's Jar-Jar Binks or something and he's a lot more complicated and darker than that.

Actually, I think the problem with Neelix - for me - isn't that he's Jar-Jar. It's that he's completely believable. I've known a bunch of guys like Neelix in my time. It's like if the dude from Haiku Tunnel was suddenly messing up everything on a starship. That's fine, but it's not very Star Trek, and it doesn't speak well of the crew that they can't keep him in check.

Plus... the part where he was being a jerk about the accommodations was funny, and the bit where he was lonely, it was easy to feel sympathy for him. However, the bit where he interacted with Kes was awful: snippy jealousy, leaping to suicide talk and accusations. It was believable but hugely unpleasant. Their relationship is generally one of my least favorite aspects of the rewatch - last week's horrid and inaccurate mansplaining really leapt out too.

I think everybody liked Kes, but she was a bit bland and the show did improve when she left and 7 of 9 came aboard.

I really liked Seven - she was probably my second favorite Voyager regular after the Doctor - but I really wish they'd kept them both and ditched a guy instead.

* Janeway is developing a very loose cannon approach to stuff.

Navigating Voyager into a confined space without doing any kind of survey put the entire ship at risk. It made me wonder if anybody had bothered to let her know that Neelix was in stable condition. (We already know nobody talks to the Doctor much.) They should've taken in a shuttle, or... well, pretty much anything but what they did. They had the Vidiians cornered.

Firing the phasers in the enclosed space was also pretty reckless.

* Still love the Doctor.

He always kills it. This was especially great:
Kes: I thought Tom Paris was assigned to you?
Doctor: Like I said, no help.
And:
Vidiian: According to my scans, you're not here.
Doctor: Believe me, I wish I weren't.
* The Vidiian problem ignores scale, but they're awesome regardless.

The whole 'the Phage has been eating us alive for 2000 years' thing really jumped out at me. Really, show? 2000 years? At some point, an ailment ceases to be an ailment and is just a central feature of a civilization.

Apart from that, the Vidiians are actually a favorite Voyager bad guy of mine. I agree with this whole talk, basically:

I'm dead serious (heh) that I think that they rank with the Borg, those bug-body-snatcher things from "Conspiracy", the salt vampire, and Trek's other creepiest bad dudes.

So, props to Voyager for bringing them in with some style, here.
posted by mordax at 7:58 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


The Neelix/Kes relationship is icky from the get-go. She's not three years old; she's only one! (They won't celebrate her second birthday until Season 2.) Ursula Hitler makes a good point about Neelix's rashness & mood swings. I think this behavior is most evident in the first season. This episode and the one that follows show his leaps from obsequiously good-natured to flying off the handle to the point of being kind of scary most explicitly. The jealousy thing is also already super tired by the end of this episode, and it's just getting started.

All that said, I still probably like Neelix more than I like Kes (I just get creeped out by her breathy little voice for some reason), but he's irritating as hell in these first several episodes. Whining his way onto an away mission and then utterly ignoring Chakotay's orders is very frustrating when one is used the rote discipline of Academy-trained crews. The Maquis crewmembers look like shiny Starfleet officers next to Neelix.

I do love the development of the Doctor here, though, as well as Janeway's interactions with the horrifying-yet-pathetic Vidiians (Braga's comparison to Frankenstein's Creature is apt).
posted by obloquy at 1:42 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Inexplicably I'm missing the disc that has the next four episodes. It should be around somewhere, but for the moment I'm unable to rewatch the show.

Some more general thoughts then. I agree that the Vidiians were a strong addition to the show, much better than the Kazon in conceptual terms, and their want of organs makes them a much more visceral seeming threat than many of the other races encountered. Of course, as was mentioned last episode, that they exist in an area where there are planets to have yet developed space flight makes little sense given the Vidiians would surely have decimated those planets for organs already, but I'm not going to worry too much about that as Trek hasn't evinced much interest in putting those kinds of pieces together to convincingly show star system interactions all that often. I mean it happens, but more in a haphazard manner than a consistent and more thought out way.

I've already griped about Neelix and Kes as a couple, which was just a bad plan from the get go, so I'll pass over that beyond saying this episode already shows the downsides of it without there ever being much upside to balance that out. Neelix as a character though is more interesting. I absolutely loathed him on my first watch up until Kes departed the show and favored the doctor far more, but sometime around the fourth or fifth season I started to find the doctor more tiring and enjoyed Neelix more, so I was hoping to look at that in more detail this time around, but without this episode available for the moment I'll have to wait on tracing those paths.

Neelix strikes me as far too inconsistent a character, where some episodes show him as being a quasi-Guinan type, full of sage advice, though more humbly delivered, while other episode use him as comic relief, more a bumbler who interferes with things than sagely, and yet others give him more depth and backstory that doesn't seem to connect that well with either of the other two modes, showing him as more scheming and self interested. If they found a way to tie those aspects together more convincingly, showing all those characteristics in the same episode, it'd be more convincing, but each writer seems to treat his character as a different stereotype rather than developing a more coherent reading of him. The stereotype or archetype concept of character is one some of the Trek shows seem too tied to in place of character since that gives them more room to use the shows for "moral lessons". Moral quandaries reflecting the complexities of character are solid choices, Janeway/Mulgrew does well with those, more in acting I think than in how they were written much of the time, but still it can come across well. The Neelix stuff is much more hit and miss though, even the really interesting episodes, like the one with Tuvix, get weighed down a bit by his character, at least that's how it seemed on first viewing.

I'm not sure how much of that I place on the shoulders of Ethan Phillips and how much on the writers, but surely its a mix of both in some fashion. Phillips comes across as earnest in his actions, even when they aren't all that defensible, so he could give a little more indication of complex thought even if it isn't always in the writing directly. His introduction in the pilot showed him as a bit of a scaled down Brian Blessed type, full of bravado that he may not be able to match in practice, but with a sense of daring nonetheless, that sort of fades out or is pared down too much I think, and that leaves the "comedy" surrounding him much weaker and makes his character seem more like a nebish, which doesn't make him much of a partner for Kes to work with, thus diminishing her as well. They both are burdened by having to be warm and compassionate too much of the time, a bigger issue with Kes, to be sure, but one that informs the inconsistency around Neelix, who is only thinking of others one episode and only thinking of himself in the next. I'd also agree Janeway's treatment of Neelix is one of the more difficult aspects of her character to fathom. It simply doesn't fit all that well with anything else she does, other than her go with her gut approach sometimes, and even then the lack of vigilance and revising of her thoughts on Neelix seems offbase for her.

On preview: One of the things with Kes for me is that Jennifer Lien showed she could do more with her in the few times she was given the chance, but the writers just didn't seem to know what to do with her, so they got stuck on the one aspect of her personality much more than anything else, which dulled the characters considerably. She possibly should have been the more volatile one and Neelix the more consistent given the strengths of each actor and the backstories of the characters, but the alleged comic element of Neelix won out and pushed Kes into the background.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:05 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Voyager Stores Report:

Photon Torpedoes: 37 (no Change)
Shuttles: A Full Complement (no change)
Crew: 152 (down 1 , Lieutenant Peter Durst)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:23 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


The whole 'the Phage has been eating us alive for 2000 years' thing really jumped out at me. Really, show? 2000 years? At some point, an ailment ceases to be an ailment and is just a central feature of a civilization.

Gonna have to agree (see also: western civilization and the practice of loaning money at interest), unless of course Vidiians live for many hundreds of years.

Crew: 152 (down 1 , Lieutenant Peter Durst)

Pretty sure you're thinking of an upcoming Vidiian episode, not this one!

One of the things with Kes for me is that Jennifer Lien showed she could do more with her in the few times she was given the chance, but the writers just didn't seem to know what to do with her, so they got stuck on the one aspect of her personality much more than anything else, which dulled the characters considerably. She possibly should have been the more volatile one and Neelix the more consistent given the strengths of each actor and the backstories of the characters, but the alleged comic element of Neelix won out and pushed Kes into the background.

Agreed! I'm really noticing Lien's acting chops on this rewatch. She's got some really impressive, and volatile, moments in the otherwise pretty meh S2 episode "Elogium." Mordax is right: gain Ryan, keep Lien, lose Wang. But I'm sure the producers/network would've been apoplectic about the notion of having so woman-heavy a cast -_-
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:01 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]



Crew: 152 (down 1 , Lieutenant Peter Durst)

Pretty sure you're thinking of an upcoming Vidiian episode, not this one!

Yeah, that's correct, the Lieutenant faces his demise in a later episode. That said, thanks for the count: I should've remembered to count the photon torpedoes, minimum. (I can't believe a ship like Voyager had tricobalt warheads, but only 37 photon torpedoes.)
posted by mordax at 7:46 AM on January 17


I would have loved it if they'd kept Lien, although they didn't necessarily need to get rid of Wang; after all, DS9 added a regular (Worf) halfway through without ditching any of the others, although Cirroc Lofton made fewer appearances in the show. (I think that the direction they should have taken Harry Kim in was that, as a young and idealistic officer, he may have come around to the Maquis point of view, and even resigned his commission for a while; that would explain why he was never promoted above ensign.) They could have worked with the idea that Kes' compressed lifespan meant that she was burning the candle ten times as bright, and established her as someone who could quickly and intuitively grasp just about any task--she starts the hydroponics section, she becomes a nurse, etc.--and even that her undefined psychic powers tie into that; that she's got some kind of spider-sense/cosmic awareness thing that allows her to see around the corners of things, as it were; the sort of thing that would be hugely advantageous to a short-lived species. So Kes is the ultimate utility player, and eventually settles into researching transwarp propulsion methods, which makes it more plausible that Voyager might get one of them to work--but also puts a time limit on how long they have to figure that out, since she would get visibly older as the show went on.

I also agree that it's not necessarily a bad thing that Neelix has some less-pleasant aspects to him; he does usually maintain that affable exterior, but he's also a hustler and opportunist of sorts. (His initial reaction to contact with Voyager was suspicion that they were trying to take some of the junk he was salvaging.) Both with his takeover of the captain's mess and his crashing the staff meeting previously, he seems to operate on the principle that it's better to ask forgiveness than permission. I also thought that his claustrophobic flip-out was plausible and well done. But, even though, as mordax says, his behavior toward Kes is completely believable, I still don't want to see it, just because there are already plenty of instances in which Trek's treatment of women is not-great. (Or fandom's in general, for that matter.) Their eventual break-up will indeed be a relief.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:59 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Lose Wang !?! Are you crazy? Harry's my favorite! Lose Paris, leave him lizarding and move on, that's my solution. Or, if not that, dump Chakotay, not that he should go, but they never figured out much to do with him beyond the stereotype stuff anyway. (Which is too bad really since he should have been a much more central and formidable character.)

I like that idea for Kes, I was thinking if there was ever a reboot of the show, I'd have all those anomalies they face lack a reset button, so time shifts and character changes would have longer lasting effects (and I'd add more) and only Kes was able to "see" the original version of things, so she could act as something of a base for providing a much more fluid and changing dynamic to the show, making choices seem far more important than they do in reset space.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:17 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Oh no!
That's what happens when you don't pay attention.

Voyager Stores Report (Addendum):
Type VI Photon Torpedoes: 37 (Original Complement 42)
Tricobalt Devices: 0 (Original Complement 2)
Shuttles: A Full Complement (no change)
Crew: 153 (Everything is fine, calm down Peter)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:20 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I also agree that it's not necessarily a bad thing that Neelix has some less-pleasant aspects to him; he does usually maintain that affable exterior, but he's also a hustler and opportunist of sorts.

On this re-watch, I've come around to the idea that what I find displeasing about his presence on the show isn't so much Neelix himself, it's that the show doesn't entirely know what to do with him -- not in terms of the hustler/bumbler, opportunist/pleasant fellow dichotomies, but in exactly the same terms as with the Maquis/Starfleet disunity. The Maquis all have to wear Starfleet uniforms from Day One, which is weird, and that question of personal identification could have been a great plot hook, and yet is almost entirely ignored; and yet Neelix wears whatever he wants? The Maquis crew conflict is downplayed, but when it does rear up the show plays up the consequences and ramifications of that, which is doubly weird ('this is totally fine except on every third Thursday when we do a Maquis episode instead of a time-travel one'), -- but Neelix constantly comes into conflict with Janeway's orders and with starfleet regulations and gets away with a 'oh, that Neelix!'

It's less, in other words, that I'm bothered by Neelix's inconstancy, and more by that inconstancy of how the show, and the crew, treats him -- and he is, in the early seasons, one of the less consistently-written characters, which I think is less that he contains some less-than-pleasant aspects and more that he may or may not contain those aspects depending on which episodes you watch. But it's how quickly he swings from being vital to Voyager's success to a sitcom punchline that's hard to take; consider his his scavenging for food, or his home cooking: the show pays nearly no attention to how many shuttles Voyager is carrying, nor torpedoes, nor (mostly) to crew -- that immediately pulls away most of the significance of Neelix's scrounging. We have to accept, in watching the show, that he is both seriously needed (and therefore the latitude he gets to run things his ways is acceptable), or else that he is not (and therefore that the ship can actually carry enough weapons for several seasons). Likewise he services as a guide, which Voyager very rarely seems to be in actual need. This has already been discussed at length, but I think Neelix is another case of the show being uncertain of what it wants to be -- slightly gritty, trapped-in-the-Delta-Quadrant? heavily episodic and light on its feet? constantly reset for serialization or developed with continuity for drama? Is Neelix comedic relief or is he an integral part of the ship's survival? The answer we get is 'yes, sure, why not both?' which never quite works, overall, but delivers some individually excellent episodes.

I can see a show -- I think this often of Voyager -- where Neelix is but the first of many people from the Delta quadrant to join the crew, as the ship, understaffed, picks up a few people from ever civilized world they stop at, slowly spreading the beliefs of the Federation, or being challenged to retain them internally in the face of a yet-ever-more-diverse crew. I love hating Ethan Phillip's performance, and he did as great a job as anyone could have with the character as written; I wish, however, that they had written a better character.

Turning to the episode itself: the Vidiians are exactly as creepy and interesting as the Kazon aren't, partly because they have a substantial hook to them (the Kazon always felt a bit undifferentiated from Generic Space Culture of the Week, to me, except that they kept getting top billing), and partly because the hook is really good. They don't make sense, on a stop-and-think-through-how-that-would-work level, societally, but they make a lot of emotional, visceral sense. Both would be better, but I'll happily and horrifyiedly take one.
posted by cjelli at 9:16 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I think Neelix is another case of the show being uncertain of what it wants to be

I think that's basically it, yeah. It's not so much that Neelix is, himself, a bad character. The relationship stuff I'm complaining about is indeed woven into the fabric of Trek - about the only character that consistently escapes it is Kira Nerys, and that was Nana Visitor agitating behind the scenes.

It's more that the way the crew handles him is completely nonsensical, and I believe you are correct about why. The genre/tone uncertainty is something that will always plague Voyager, but Neelix is where it's most immediately obvious, and it's grating because Neelix just isn't very funny.

Re: who to ditch -

I should've been more specific. I was also thinking probably Paris or Chakotay. Chakotay because he was mishandled horribly, and Beltran was pretty upset about it. Paris because - game as McNeil is - he's a boring archetype. I mean, did we really need a womanizing ace pilot?

Harry Kim is in no way expendable, he's another case where Voyager did something right. (I feel like he's their reasonably successful answer to Miles O'Brien.)
posted by mordax at 11:15 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Harry Kim is in no way expendable, he's another case where Voyager did something right. (I feel like he's their reasonably successful answer to Miles O'Brien.)

Hhhhuh. Well, that'll be another thing for me to monitor on this rewatch. I said "lose Wang" because (A) that was the producers' original intent when bringing on Seven and (B) the Kim character never made a very strong impression on me on previous viewings, with one or two standout episodes as exceptions. Why, it's just possible that viewing VOY through a MeFi FanFare lens will make me more forgiving of it!—parts, anyway.</Sam Elliott glower>
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:18 PM on January 17


For me, the Harry Kim thing was totally a cumulative experience, where he often sort of existed as a subsidiary character to the other cast members, but came across well doing it in a really pleasantly normal seeming manner. I mean he gets some excellent high notes, but stays pretty solidly relatable throughout the run and works well with all the other cast members. It's because he doesn't stand out as much as the doctor, Neelix, Janeway, and Seven of (every) Nine (episodes are about her) that he doesn't get overemphasized, but doesn't end up an afterthought like Chakotay or often out of place like Paris either.

Actually, one of the best things about Paris is his interactions with Harry, they worked up a believable chemistry together that comes across well onscreen. They make a much better pair than Tom and B'Elanna.

Besides, Harry gets some of the nuttiest stuff done to his character since he is sort of inbetween main and secondary cast.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:44 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Harry's importance is that he's the embodiment of the desire to get home—from the start, it is his driving aspiration. Characters like the Doctor and Torres may not want to go back at all, while others, like Chakotay, are willing to consider settling in the Delta quadrant. And there are others still, like Neelix, Kes, and (later) Naomi Wildman and Seven of Nine, who have no prior experience of Earth to begin with and whose levels of importance placed on getting there are varied and more likely to change over time.

Young Ensign Kim is really the only character who will always argue for trying to get home over alternative ideas.
posted by obloquy at 5:52 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


One thing that bugs me about Neelix's locavorism is that you rarely if ever actually see him or anyone else actually buying or gathering foodstuffs

S01E11, State of Flux, is all about the crew foraging for food on a planet.

The Maquis all have to wear Starfleet uniforms from Day One, which is weird, and that question of personal identification could have been a great plot hook, and yet is almost entirely ignored; and yet Neelix wears whatever he wants?

Neelix, Kes, Seven of Nine & Icheb all wear non-uniform outfits. Neelix's are just the most noticeable; well, and Seven's but you're not really looking at the outfit. As for why, none of them are officially in Starfleet until Icheb takes his cadet exam at which time he's inducted & starts wearing the uniform.
posted by scalefree at 7:38 PM on January 17


Well, yeah, but the Maquis are also, in general, not in Starfleet. So, why the uniforms?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:27 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Young Ensign Kim is really the only character who will always argue for trying to get home over alternative ideas.

Except for the S2 episode "Non Sequitur," where he does the exact opposite. Ah, the inconsistency of this show. (Maybe that's why they called it that.)

Well, yeah, but the Maquis are also, in general, not in Starfleet. So, why the uniforms?

I was literally just about to post this. Janeway's inconsistency is so obviously politically-motivated that it's as if she wants to piss off certain Maquis. If I were of a conspiratorial bent, I might think she did, in order to sniff out potential troublemakers. But that'd be pretty Garak of her.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:30 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


One could argue, I suppose, that having the Maquis don uniforms is a way to tie them into the rest of the crew as a method to work against self-segregation, which could lead to the feeling of two separate crews rather than one more united group. I mean I actually agree with the idea of having the Maquis wear uniforms, I just can't figure out why she cuts Neelix so much slack. Kes the same due to her being with Neelix, but otherwise she's a bit more clearly separated from the rest of the crew in her "work" aside from serving in sick bay perhaps. Icheb's similar to Kes, not exactly crew, but along side them so no uniform for him doesn't bother me much, and while it's understandable that Seven didn't get a uniform to start with, coming from the Borg and all, after a year or so she should have been given one too. Chalk that one up to oversight and being Janeway's special project/surrogate I guess.)
posted by gusottertrout at 4:29 AM on January 18


One could argue, I suppose, that having the Maquis don uniforms is a way to tie them into the rest of the crew as a method to work against self-segregation, which could lead to the feeling of two separate crews rather than one more united group. I mean I actually agree with the idea of having the Maquis wear uniforms, I just can't figure out why she cuts Neelix so much slack.

Yes, that: there are plenty of reasons why having the Maquis wear Starfleet uniforms makes sense, and there are plenty of reasons why Janeway would push for them to do so, but insofar as the reasons for that begin with bringing the Starfleet members and actively non-Starfleet crew members together, it's question begging to start with the premise that you can divide the crew into 'Starfleet' and 'non-Starfleet' lines and have the Maquis fall consistently on the Starfleet side. If we instead start with there being Starfleet members (the original Voyager crew) and non-Starfleet members (at the beginning, the Maquis, Neelix, and Kes), it's a bit surprising that of the non-Starfleet members some of them are (to put it hyperbolically) press-ganged into uniform and required to follow the chain of command (the Maquis), while some of them are not (Neelix, Kes), and the rationale for that is never quite addressed.

Or, put another way, putting the Maquis back in uniform is fine in and of itself -- but it feels inconsistent with how Neelix is treated, and it's a bit glaring (in retrospect) that the topic isn't explored much (instead: time travel! again!). Neelix walks a Quark-like line in acting out of personal whimsy, but there's no Odo actually trying to keep him check. Tuvok -- who the show occasionally tries to set up in that role -- rarely (if I'm remembering correctly, which I may not be!) goes beyond polite exasperation. Conversely, leaving Neelix as-is but giving the Maquis more free reign to co-exist rather than integrate would be also feel consistent, at the cost/benefit of being a different show.
posted by cjelli at 6:59 AM on January 18


Did other captains have private dining rooms? We often saw Sisko cooking in his quarters. Picard entertained Dr. Crusher in his quarters for coffee and pastries. The crew of Archer's Enterprise ate in a proper mess hall, but we did see that Archer had a private dining room of sorts for his senior staff pals to watch water polo matches with him.

It always seemed strange to me that Janeway was off to her massively large private dining room (which is nowhere near her quarters, I think) as if it were a regular thing that Starfleet captains do and she is not to be disturbed in this sacred space. Then again, I take often take my meals upstairs to the media room to eat in front of the TV, so who am I to judge?
posted by Servo5678 at 11:07 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


I really think that Janeway should have said that they didn't have to formally join Starfleet--as long as they generally agreed to follow Starfleet rules and regs during the course of their duties--but that if they did, they'd get extra privileges, replicator and holodeck chits or whatever. You would still have some holdouts (B'Elanna being probably one, and maybe Chakotay out of loyalty, for a while; Seska, on the other hand, might switch early, just to see if she could weasel her way into some classified info or off-limits areas), for a while, but eventually they'd start to cross over more and more. Harry would eventually resign his commission after changing his mind about the Maquis, and Tom might go back and forth depending on what his mood was that day.

Speaking of Neelix, some of the alternate/speculative futures do show him in an Ops gold uniform, so there's that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:12 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Regarding dining rooms, Memory Alpha has you covered.

The Enterprise D did have one, though we rarely see people eating anything but the odd dessert on TNG. I guess everyone lives on tea and soylent or something.
posted by annekate at 9:09 PM on January 20


Oh, yes, the separate dining area for the Captain is almost certainly a holdover from sailing ships where the same arrangement existed. It both gives the captain some privacy away from his crew, save for perhaps a guest, senior officer, or first mate with whom he can speak more freely and it also gives the crew a break from some of the demands of rank and allows them more freedom as well. It's a decidedly beneficial arrangement, I mean who wants to eat every meal with their boss?
posted by gusottertrout at 11:54 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Regarding Janeway being a loose cannon - I watched this episode right after watching Valiant on DS9 (the episode where Jake and Nog end up on the CW version of Trek), and I realized that Janeway's actions did seem a lot like the teen commander's, only without the stim abuse. It's an odd characterization - it feels like either they should lean into it and make it clear that she is making erratic decisions because holy fuck this situation wtf, or less erratic and more reasoned (which still can allow for brutality).

And oh my god dump Paris. Dump him now. Shove him out the airlock. Ensign Kim can be sad for a little bit about his dead boyfriend and then we can all get back on with our lives.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:34 AM on January 26


But, but Paris is like the greatest button pilot ever! How could Voyager possibly get along without his button pushing piloting skills? They'd surely be lost and end up somewhere in the Epsilon Quandrant were Paris to be lost. Not to mention it would rob Harry of his big chance to be a sidekick. That just won't do!
posted by gusottertrout at 6:49 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


We'll always have Paris.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:13 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


But, but Paris is like the greatest button pilot ever! How could Voyager possibly get along without his button pushing piloting skills?

This reminds me: looking back, having recently-ish re-watch Insurrection, I'm just glad they never gave Paris a joystick to match Riker's. I'll take dramatic button-pushing over that, any day of the week. (Unless they did do that in one of the later seasons and I'm forgetting. They didn't do that, right?)
posted by cjelli at 7:30 AM on January 26


"For aesthetic reasons, Paris designed some of the flight controls of the Delta Flyer to resemble those from the holodeck simulation of Captain Proton; when Tuvok complained, Paris explained that he wanted to feel the ship and that he was tired of tapping panels."

"For the Delta Flyer II the flight controls were redesigned not to resemble those from the Captain Proton holodeck program anymore, but more like a cross-over between a 20th century aircraft control column (yoke) and a control stick giving the pilot a more hands-on feeling as opposed to conventional touch panels."
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:36 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


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