Monday, June 27, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Parturition"

You had to figure Neelix’s jealousy towards tom’s friendship with kes would come to a head at some point. The idea of an entire episode being devoted to what was a running subplot is a surprise, particularly considering what a juvenile attitude both characters have been exhibiting. “Parturition” resolves their dispute in as trite and predictable a manner as possible, so at least there is consistency.

The trouble begins when tom is teaching Kes to pilot a shuttlecraft in a holodeck simulation. She slips at one part when the shuttlecraft is rocked and falls into his arms. She sits in his lap just a little too long. The ironic part is Neelix does not know about this. All he knows is the two of them were in the holodeck together. He knows this because he was spying around the corner. So he is a demented stalker.

The two come to blows in the mess hall after kes has the nerve to wave at Tom and smile. It is at this point, while still covered in pasta, they are ordered to report to Janeway for a mission. There is a nearby planet with a hostile atmosphere that may host edible planets. Tom is the best pilot to manage the atmosphere. Neelix is all about edible plant life. They are stuck together.

As you can most certainly predict, the shuttlecraft crashes. The two survive unhurt, but cannot be rescued until a convenient clear patch opens in the atmosphere for a beam out. They have to stick together in order to survive. The whole affair comes across poorly. The atmosphere is irritating to the skin, but it is explicitly stated it would take a week’s worth of exposure to be fatal. They will be able to beam out in a couple hours, so the worst they suffer are rashes. Neither of them were injured in the crash, so there is no ticking clock for emergency medical care. The drama is finding a cave, sealing themselves in, and then sniping at each other.

Their fighting is broken up by the discovery a a baby lizard hatching in the back of the cave. Naturally, it is sick. Tom knows this because the lizard is shivering. Cold blooded reptiles do not shiver, but this is VOY where the science is even worse than the plotting. Barely. The lizard’s problem is it gets nutrients from the atmosphere. Because Tom and Neelix blocked off the cave, the lizard is starving to death. So they take it outside in spite of their nasty rashes. They save the lizard together and that bonds the two. Neelix admits he suffers from severe jealousy. Tom confesses if it were not for Neelix, he would jump Kes’ bones in a heartbeat. Somehow, the brutal honesty resolves the issue. Television logic. You have to love it.

The subplot is the lizard’s mother is part of a space faring race that attacks Voyager in order to protect its baby. I have a tough time accepting that a race technologically advanced enough for interstellar travel would have to dump its eggs on a planet in order to properly feed it. But even if they do, reptiles usually abandon their eggs once they are laid period, so coming back for the baby would be strange. So would not just communicating with Voyager about the planet serving as their nursery rather than going in guns blazing. It is dumb all around.

In spite of the negatives I have accentuated, there are some good character moments involving anyone not named Neelix or Tom. When those two knuckleheads show up in Janeway’s office covered in pasta and insisting they not be assigned a mission together, she is succinct in addressing their problem--’Solve it.” That is how a captain ought to handle petty issues among her crew rather than the micromanaging of everyone’s lives and ordering them to implement her solutions like Janeway normally does. I do not get to praise Janeway much, but credit where credit is due. On rare occasions, she acts like someone qualified to have her job.

Harry is another character who gets a moment to shine when he consoles Kes over the missing Neelix and Tom. Too often Harry is the focus of bad luck and/or abuse. Even when he is the focus of an episode, he rarely gets any development. His ability to connect emotionally with Kes here without any hint the would like to sleep with her raises him far above either Neelix or Tom. You have to wonder why Kes does not see that. Not saying she should fall for Harry, but that she ought to recognize what cads the other two are in comparison. Maybe she just likes immature, abusive men. Women appear to have a self-destructive need to reform those types of men.

Even though I find the conflict between Neelix and Tom petty and dumb, I have to recognize the rarity of main characters in a Trek series actually having a conflict that involves emotion. Normally, any conflict of this nature between characters has to be the result of alien influence interfering with the way enlightened 24th century humans handle their problems. Of course, the catalyst is still Neelix the unenlightened alien, so we do not get to journey too far passed the usual motif.

“Parturition” is not a particularly good episode. Plot wise, it is on par with a cartoon meant to teach children a lesson about jealousy. The whole baby lizard and its mother attacking the ship bit is trite and demonstrative of VOY’s shallow thinking in both plot and scientific accuracy. The only highlights are the all too brief moments with Janeway and Harry I described above. They sre not enough to elevate the episode to anything enjoyable.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment