The SASR [Short Attention Span Review] is the creation of Jim Wright, who watches the episode no more than twice before preparing the review. This gives me the opportunity to review and recap with a combination of memory and creativity (when memory fails). The result is an experience that is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the actual episode. Consider it a revival of the ancient oral traditions passed on through the generations. I make no claims as to accuracy, but I hope I got enough of it right to keep your attention.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Kes and Paris soon arrive in the mess hall, where Neelix is slaving away over a hot stove. He's soon even hotter under the collar as Paris deposits his armload of produce and says to Kes, "see you later." Neelix is the jealous type; Paris is after all the most testosterone-laden being in the entire Delta Quadrant, and Kes is young enough (not quite two years old) to make even Calvin Klein think twice before putting her in his commercials. Fortunately, Kes is wise beyond her year [sic] and insists that she and Paris are simply friends, "see you later" is merely a trite human phrase that nobody takes literally, and Neelix is just being silly. He remains grudgingly unconvinced.
Neelix's already sour mood gets worse when he sees a large bug crawling around in the salad, and reacts badly. Kes says, "it's a spawn beetle," a multicolored insect that helps keep the plants healthy and cross-pollinated (even the vegetables are getting into the spirit of this episode). Neelix murmurs that the captain wouldn't appreciate having one crawl around on her plate, and Kes spirits it off to the garden leaving her jealous warthog of a boyfriend left to stew.
Meanwhile, Chakotay returns to the bridge, where he discretely mentions the crewmember indiscretion on the turbolift to Captain Janeway. Janeway seems amused at first; normally the strict type, the Starfleet policies to which she is so dedicated are quite permissive in the area of fraternization, and she suggests that it's a long voyage and it's only natural that the crew will eventually start to pair off. Chakotay persists, indicating some of the potential difficulties associated with their unique circumstances. Theirs is a potential 70 year (or longer) voyage, and reproduction may be necessary to get them another generation of crew to help get them home. But their already precarious circumstances would be complicated further by children--limited resources, the need for teachers and day care and the frightening thought of baby Tom Parises running around. They decide, for the moment, to urge discretion on the crew but not to forbid or encourage extracurricular snuggle bunnies.
Shortly after Janeway mentions her desire to get home before her boyfriend gives up on her, she is alerted to a space thingie by the bridge crew. What first looks like a cloud appears, under magnification, as an outer space edition of Free Willy. Bunches of flying creatures that flit about in Brownian motion are just the sort of things that fascinate Starfleet types, so they naturally change course and close in to investigate. Soon they're within harpooning distance.
Kes is in the garden, putting spawn beetles on the plants. Suddenly, she does something unexpected: she starts distractedly eating beetles like popcorn. A beetle for the plants, a beetle for Kes. A beetle for the plants, three beetles for Kes. A beetle for the plants, a handful of beetles for Kes. On the second handful Kes apparently realizes that something is odd, and looks at the handful of skittering snacks with a face filled with amazement. And beetle parts.
The bridge crew is scanning the whale-like things from a distance, trying to figure out how these things can live in the vacuum of space. There's a whole mess of them, so they appear to be a colony of sorts. The details eluded me, so let's get back to Kes.
Kes is back in her quarters, eating everything she can wrap her mouth around. (Kinda makes you wonder what she's growing in that there garden, don't you think?) At least it's a balanced diet: ice cream, mashed potatoes, fruits, vegetables, dirt. (I can't make stuff like this up.) When her doorbell rings, she reacts swiftly, hiding all the food she can. In comes Neelix, bearing flowers, sounding contrite for his earlier outburst. He begins to worry when she starts eating the flowers. (Funny, she never eats my cooking so enthusiastically....) and gives him a taste of mashed potatoes and potting soil. He drags her to sickbay, kicking and eating the whole way.
In Sickbay, Holodoc and Neelix don't get along. Kes is on a diagnostic table with a stomachache and an extra value meal. Neelix is being obtrusive--naturally concerned, but obtrusive. Finally, Holodoc kicks him out of sickbay. Neelix doesn't take this well, and complains to Captain Janeway that a non-life-form would do something so discourteous. In Neelix's mid-rant, Holodoc calls the captain and urges her to come to sickbay; Kes has gone loopy and locked herself in Holodoc's office. Oh, and she's got a strange growth on her back, too. At least she's not hungry anymore.
Janeway runs down to sickbay and finds Kes cowering in a fetal position behind a force field. After a bit of wrangling, she gets Kes to lower the force field and Kes runs into her arms like a scared child, which she in fact is. It turns out that one of the big technical words associated with the space whales seems to be affecting Kes, and has jump-started her into puberty, kinda like that new Taco Bell "Baywatch fajita" commercial does for American teenage boys. In her culture, it is known as the Elogium (pronounced "ell-oh-zhum"), and what has her freaked is that it normally doesn't hit a member of her species until they're 4 or 5 years old. She's not even two. The Elogium is the Fertility Period, and the really scary thing is...Ocampa only get one chance at motherhood. She either has a child now, or never.
Deciding that the whale things are bad for Kes, they try to move the ship away from the herd. Unfortunately, they find they can't; they're sucked into the swimming space thingies and find their shields dropping and their impulse power going bye-bye. They have other propulsion options, but they don't want to hurt the creatures if at all possible.
Back to parenthood: Neelix doesn't take this news well. Kes wants him to be the father, but he's got a serious case of cold feet. He has a whole lot of reasons to not want to be a father, but fear lays at the root of it. For the second time in the episode, Kes gets mad enough at Neelix to send him scurrying; she tells him he has fifty hours to decide, because her hands are oozing pine tar and when they dry off, she's lost her chance. She has to start the mating process before that time, and once it starts it's a six-day process of coupling to guarantee conception. He seems intrigued at the prospect, but being a father didn't really fit into his plans. His life, before he became the Voyager ship's cook, had not been conducive to family life, so I can't blame him entirely.
Voyager, now firmly stuck in whale territory, finds that it is both the object of interest and repulsion. Several of the creatures latch on to the hull, and a very, very large creature approaches with apparently hostile intent. Evasive maneuvers begin.
Tuvok appears in the mess hall as a crewman sputters painfully and Neelix apologizes for putting too much pepper on the food. Tuvok orders whatever the special of the day is--leftover something, since Neelix is too preoccupied to cook anything. As Tuvok sits to eat, Neelix asks him what parenthood is like. Tuvok, we learn, has three sons and one daughter. (Don't let his youthful appearance fool you; Tuvok has been married for over 65 years.) Tuvok describes the good and bad of fatherhood, and Neelix begins to rethink his earlier reticence.
Next thing we know, Neelix is back in Kes' quarters, eager to begin the process. He wants to be a daddy now. Kes seems a bit more reluctant now, but presses onward. Neelix asks what happens now, and Kes says that she needs to have her feet massaged until her tongue begins to swell. Normally, her father would do this, and Janeway is occupied with the whales, so she goes to the nearest father figure she can think of--Holodoc.
While massaging her feet, Holodoc takes on a visage of fascinated uncertainty. Kes simply looks uncertain. She asks Holodoc for advice--is she doing the right thing? Is she rushing into this only because it's her only chance, or because she really wants it? She had so many things she wanted--expected--to do first, before the darn whales mucked up the itinerary. Kes describes the ritual Holodoc is helping her with, as being the time when a father and daughter enter a new phase of their relationship, and it's the father's opportunity to dispense wisdom before another becomes the most important man in her life. Holodoc, unused to giving parental advice, starts discussing the age/motherhood correlation among other species. This doesn't help Kes much. I don't know if her tongue ever started to swell.
Meanwhile, the bridge crew is struggling with the big ole space whale, which is growing increasingly belligerent. They start bumping it; it bumps back. They shoot something unpleasant at it; it returns the favor. They're still unwilling to harm it, but within that limitation their options are very limited. They're about to begin kicking butt when Chakotay offers a suggestion: the swarm they're in the midst of seems to be a colony of sorts, and perhaps the big boy is the bull of the herd. The coloration of the big boy and the little things is different, and Chakotay suggests that if they don't want to do damage, they'd better turn submissive real quick. Following the example of the smaller creatures, the Voyager does a slow roll while emitting a blue cloud of something.
Apparently irritated that it had wimped out in its battle with the big boy, the doting creatures unlatched themselves from Voyager's hull and flew towards the victor. Apparently satisfied that the dominance battle is over and it is the victor, the big whale leaves them alone, and Voyager is able to back slowly away from danger. Or a blind date with the big whale. "We appear to have lost our sex appeal," Tuvok offers with Vulcan wryness, and the crew groans softly. Janeway suggests that the next time she needs advice in matters amore, she knows who to go to. Chakotay gives his best aw-shucks grin, and Tom Paris, wisely, says nothing and is allowed to finish the scene without being phasered for harassment.
Kes decided not to go through with the mating after all; she just wasn't ready. Fortunately, the doctor told her he thought she would go through it again when the proper time came, because the effects of the premature Elogium went away when they left the whale playground. Neelix had looked a bit disappointed that she'd decided not to go through with it after all, but she told him that when the time came, she still wanted him. And in the meantime, they still had each other.
The issue of fraternization still looms. After the events of this episode, how could they not? As Janeway considers the delicacy of the situation, an ensign we saw briefly earlier in the show asks for an audience. It turns out, though it takes her a while to say it, that she's pregnant; her husband, still on Deep Space Nine, has no way of knowing, but they've been trying for quite some time and she really wants to keep the child because it's the only link she has to her life back home. She seems afraid to find out what Janeway will say, but the captain gives her a smile and says Congratulations. The decision, tough as it may be, has just been made for her.
Voyager's life just got a whole lot more complicated.
One of the elements of "seeking out new life" is knowing how that new life makes new life. In the
original series, it was Spock and the Vulcan pon farr. On The Next Generation, there was a
whole lotta spawning going on; kids abounded, and we had at least two live births: Keiko
O'Brien, and Deanna Troi. Both were more or less human in their responses, though. With Kes,
we get a whole new set of rituals and expectations. Some are alien to Joe Trekker, some are
This wasn't the most subtle episode, but it did at least maintain a consistent theme, and address a very real problem for the ship and crew: the costs and benefits of allowing the crew to "pair off" and produce the next generation. The Enterprise D was designed and conceived (sorry about that) as a family ship; Voyager was not. Its original mission was expected to last three weeks; now it could take 70 years. Even though the people of the 24th century have longer life spans (Kes excepted), at least some of the crew can be expected to lose its effectiveness after awhile, and they'll need replacements. But the complications of adding children to the picture are daunting.
The focus of the episode was sex: flirting, courtship, foreplay, jealousy, procreation and parenthood--and the sexual politics of the herd, which Voyager itself stumbles into. It wasn't prurient, but there were a couple of opportunities for the old wink-wink-nudge-nudge comments from various characters. My favorite being Tuvok's "we seem to have lost our sex appeal."
My personal Trek biases lean towards character development, and relevant cultural awareness. I love Deep Space Nine for the "Trek universe in microcosm" view: a detailed look at religion, politics, and society in one specific corner of the galaxy. I like learning about the quirks of this species of that. The deeper the look, the happier I am. I felt a tad cheated by Deanna Troi on Next Generation: aside from the empathic abilities, Troi was pretty much human. Her mother, though annoying, at least gave some depth of insight into Betazoid culture, and Deanna tended to be more Betazoid when Lwaxana was around. The other fish out of water, Data and Worf, were far more satisfying to me; Worf, the proud Klingon struggling to define his place in Starfleet and in Klingon society, and Data the android with the desire to be human, on his terms. Both had brothers; we also met Data's "father" and "mother" and learned a lot about his struggles to be human, as well as to be Data.
That said: I see in the Voyager crew a similar opportunity. The Kazon are a new species, and Initiations intrigued me greatly because it took the heretofore two-dimensional Kazon and gave them some direly-needed cultural depth. Neelix the Talaxian, and Kes the Ocampa, have all sorts of cultural questions to answer. Torres has the duality of a Klingon-Human parentage, and that conflict is always at least potentially interesting.
Then there's Chakotay, he of the Alien In Our Own Back Yard background. I'm not familiar with very many Native American cultures, but they intrigue me. And since Native Americans are real cultures, the character development of Chakotay can at least theoretically be based in fact. Whether it often (or ever) is, is anyone's guess, but hope springs eternal.
Okay, so....we got a dozen flavors of the Dance of Life in this episode. The whales and the ship didn't do much for me, but the travails of Kes did maintain my interest, as did the consideration of the "fraternization" issue. An issue which the forward-thinking Tom Paris had addressed all the way back in the third episode (time and again) with Harry Kim and the Delaney sisters as coconspirators. This episode makes it official: Janeway's been thinking about the issue as well, and here her feelings on the subject run the gamut. By the end, the question is settled for her by the unexpectedly pregnant ensign, but we got to hear a sampling of the pitfalls and the potentials that this issue brings to the table.
I liked what we learned abut Kes and the Ocampa Elogium. I admit to being curious about how sex enters into Ocampa life; they have to cram a lot of living into their nine-year lifespan. They also had a civilization of limited resources, so the one shot at progeny makes sense. The rituals of courtship and mating tend to be many and varied just on earth, and they're often fascinating; I feel the same about the rituals and customs of the created peoples of science fiction. I can't recall in my readings any humans eating dirt when they're going through puberty (I ate dirt as a brain-dead five year-old), but pregnant women stereotypically eat in great quantities, and the cravings often hit bizarre extremes: Haagen-dazs and pickled herring, for instance. Nice to see that some things are the same wherever you go in the galaxy. The foot-massage ritual between father and daughter also has many earth analogues; not the foot part, the "daddy's little girl is growing up" conversation part. And of course the quite human responses to the whole process: am I ready, will I make a good parent, what if it's a girl/boy, do you think I'm fat, that kinda thing.
Neelix and Kes still didn't seem like a couple to me in this episode. But I'm prejudiced; I think they're all wrong for each other. Of course, after this episode Holodoc is more or less seen as her father figure (despite their whirlwind rocky marriage of last week's yet-another-malfunctioning-Holodreck episode), so I guess he's out. So who would make a good new boyfriend for Kes? Paris is the obvious choice (young, cute, and they're friends), but my money's on Chakotay, still smarting from the defection of Seska. Unless he and Janeway get together; they'd make an adorable couple, don't you think?
Trek has shown an uncanny ability to breed, even between species. Human-Klingon, Human-Vulcan, Vulcan-Romulan, Romulan-Klingon, Human-Betazoid, and now Ocampa-Talaxian. DNA must get real innovative in the next 500 years. I guess it helps that, regardless of species, they're all in the Screen Actors Guild.
On a 0-10 scale, I'll give this one a 7.50. I had the whole whale subplot figured out early on and it didn't interest me in the least, but the rest of the show fascinated me.
A brief review of myself: Cliché Man strikes again. If anyone wonders what to get me for Christmas, I'd recommend How to get your point across in 30 seconds or less or How to Be Brief. (Sigh) One of these days, I'll write a concise review, or at least edit the dang thing before I show it to the world.
Next week: Harry Kim finds himself back on Earth, and is none too happy about it. I've had dreams like this.