Friday, June 24, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Elogium"

If you want to know everything that is wrong with VOY in one episode viewing, you could do far worse than “Elogium.” it has it all; bad writing, poor character development, dumb plot, techno babble solution, and the Magic Reset Button, all wrapped in newspaper and rubber bands, thrown under the tee when by your drunken father who just showed up for Christmas after being gone for five years. Oh, dear.

Before I rip into “Elogium,” let me mention that I do like Kes. She is far more than young eye candy like ENT’s T’Pol. Admittedly, her character arc was infinitely predictable from the beginning. She only had a life span of nine years. Two were already gone, leaving her with seven years of life left. Seven years being the general target for which modern trek series aimed, it was clear Kes’ undefined mental powers were going to be the catalyst for sending Voyager home, probably in a dying act in the final episode. But aside from telegraphing her ultimate fate, the character had lots of promise.

Promise that rarely got fulfilled. While some kes-centric episodes are my favorites of the series. But she is so often wasted on such silly stories like “Elogium.” the powers that be never fully realized Kes’ potential as a character before deciding to fire her instead of Garrett Wang at the beginning of the fourth season in order to make room for Jeri Ryan. I will have more to say about that near the end of August. For now, let us examine ‘Elogium.”

We cannot get passed the opening credits before the first problem is evident. The script is written by Kenneth Biller and Jeri Taylor. The story does not have a Janeway is Awesome theme, so it is almost certain Taylor sat around bored, contributing a scene or two while Biller came up with most everything. It definitely has all the trappings of a Biller episode, though I am convinced he consulted with the scientifically illiterate Brannon Braga on some of the finer technical points. Those have his name written on them.

The ship encounters a swarm of space faring paramecium that decide they want to mate. The paramecium emit some kind of pheromone while doing the deed that forces Kes into an early fertility cycle. She has to mate now, or she will never conceive a child. Neelix is put on the spot.

Look at the technical aspects of Kes’ situation. The Ocampa can only mate once in their lives. They can only have one child in their lives. That means even under the best of circumstances, the Ocampa is cut in half every generation. That is under the most ideal circumstances of an equal ratio of boys to girls. There are bound to be instances of infertility, Ocampa dying before having a child, infant mortality, declarations of celibacy, decisions to not be a parent, and maybe even homosexuality. The Ocampa ought to be extinct by now. You would also think a show like VOY would have a science adviser who would catch such a mistake before filming. you do not even need a science adviser. Just apply elementary school math.

Trying to ignore the scientific inaccuracy by focusing on the personal angst of Kes and Neelix as they decide whether to have a child does not work well, either. You should already have guess the big problem is Neelix. What does Kes see in that toad? He is not only a complete jerk, but he is written to be deliberately worse here. In the beginning, Kes is paling around with Tom.. Tom is acting as far from a wolf in sheep’s clothing as he ever will , but Neelix suffers insane jealousy that leaves one wondering how far he is from slapping Kes around. At the very least, he shows signs of an abuser’s habit of isolating the woman he likes to abuse so she has no one but him to rely upon. The only thing left is for kes to be motivated to have a baby to “fix” their relationship.

Thankfully, that is not the way it goes, but the two eventually find themselves heading in opposite directions. Neelix warms up to the idea of being a father after seeking guidance from Tuvok, while Kes goes the modern feminist route in deciding having a child would keep her from accomplishing the things she wants in life. She reaches her conclusion after seeking consult with the Doctor. It is interesting the two decide to speak to an emotionless Vulcan and a hologram about such an emotionally charged issue. Do their choice of confidants inspire faith in their decision making ability?

It does not matter. The crew finally figures out how to get the critters to stop mating with the ship after realizing they need to act submissive to a rival giant paramecium that shows up. When the ship turns blue and does a barrel roll, the critters leave to go party with the other big kahuna. With them gone, Kes’ fertility cycle ends, so she cannot have a child, anyway. Whatever character development she and Neelix had is completely meaningless because they do not have to face the consequences of the decision. Just to have a happy ending, the Doctor, who admits several times he knows nothing about the biology of Ocampa pregnancy, says she will go through elogium again at the proper time since this time it was artificially induced.

There is nothing in “Elogium” worth watching. Even the strange mating rituals, such as the ceremonial massaging of Kes’ feet, wear their humor out quickly. The reset button at the end makes every bit of personal growth moot because neither Kes nor Neelix have to commit. They get let off the hook, so why should anyone care? The b-plot is bad as well. The ship can escape the paramecium swarm at any time by using the warp engines, but Janeway refuses because it will kill perhaps the entire swarm. So they just sit there and get--you know--until the idea to look like a poor mate dawns on Chakotay. They are paramecium, people. Fore up those engines!

Samantha Wildman makes her first appearance. She name drops DS9 and announces she is preggers. Her child will eventually become a big part of the series, particularly when Seven shows up, so there is that. It is still not enough reason to watch “Elogium.” nothing is.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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