The following is a SPOILER Review for the Star Trek: Voyager episode, "Parturition." If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
The SASR [Short Attention Span Review] is the creation of Jim Wright. I usually watch an episode no more than twice before preparing its review. What the recap lacks in accuracy, I hope to compensate with creativity. The result is as much a retelling as a review.
Neelix and Tom Paris go to Hell over Kes and cuisine.
Jump straight to the Analysis
("Parturition: the process of bringing forth young." I was curious, so I looked it up.)
Paris and Kes are in a shuttlecraft, and things aren't going smoothly. Paris is the best pilot on the ship, and he's giving her a lesson, and he's changing the rules to challenge her adaptive reasoning. At one point, the shuttle rocks, and Kes flies into Paris' arms. An innocent moment, surely...but there's something in Paris' eyes. She must be cuddlier than he expected. He lets her go, the simulation continues, and they leave the holodeck laughing about the hoops he'd had her fly through, and how she thinks she'll be better prepared next time.
As they leave, a frowning Neelix looks on.
Janeway is being briefed by someone about the ship's food reserves, which are down to 30%. They are in dire need of replenishing their food stores, and they've found a class M planet that may provide it. However, she is told, the planet's conditions don't fit those of a normal Class M planet, and is being called Hell for its inhospitable environment. But, food is food, and if you have to drive to a bad neighborhood to get it....Janeway orders them to set course for Hell.
Harry Kim is playing something sprightly on a clarinet [the first notes of the clarinet score from the first movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A, K 622--my thanks to Paolo Esini for pointing this out!] when Paris rings. Kim lets him in, and Paris orders him to play something. Harry resumes the original song, and Paris says "play something different." Paris has connected so well with his inner child that he's given it the day to make the decisions for them. Kim asks what's wrong. "I'm in trouble," says Paris. "What's new? asks Kim. "I'm in love," says Paris. What's new? Kim repeats. "With Kes," says Paris.
This, of course, is not good. Harry asks what brought this on. Tom says the recent shuttle training, when she landed in his arms. He always considered them good buddies up to that point, but ... well, when the libido switch gets activated, there's no telling what'll happen. Paris does acknowledge that it's not an attraction he is willing to pursue--he considers her taken, and will not invade Neelix's territory. Harry gives Paris an old Chinese saying: "Stay out of harm's way." Paris argues that it's not an old Chinese saying, and Kim says, "hey, whatever works."
Kes and Neelix are enjoying a cozy meal together (which may be a first for the series, if you don't count Kes eating mashed potatoes and dirt while Neelix carries her to sickbay in "Elogium"). Kes gushes about her shuttle training, as Neelix listens with a pained look and feigned interest. He wants to say something, but dares not. He's probably thinking, I've got a gorgeous girlfriend, but I'm no prize. How can I compete with someone as flashy and young and handsome as Paris, especially since they get along so well? I imagine Neelix sees the love of his life slipping away from him, and he can think of little reason for her to stay. He doesn't see what she sees in him, and he's miserable in his insecurity.
Meanwhile, Voyager is headed for Hell, and Janeway is checking with Torres and Holodoc and others to see what obstacles remain. Transporters are useless; the planet's transporter-hostile. It'll take a shuttle to get down there, but not just any pilot can likely handle the trip. The Holodoc pipes in and asks for a moment of the captain's time; he slips up by mentioning his eavesdropping to keep tabs on the status of the crew's health (ostensibly); the Captain calls him on it, and he protests: "I'm a doctor, not a voyeur." (There's one for the collection.)
Paris and Kim travel the halls of the ship, as they try to get Paris' mind off of his affections. As they pass the mess hall, Kes sees them and waves happily, as always (the girl is terminally chipper). Harry and Tom wave back, their smiles somewhat less genuine. "What do we do now?" asks Harry through gritted teeth. "Simple, we just don't sit with her," Paris returns. "But that would be rude." "No, that's smart. Let's go." Neelix, of course, notes their awkwardness as they approach and ask what's on the menu. The talk of food temporarily distracts Neelix, and he speaks proudly of the hair pasta he's cooked up. Kim says he hopes that's just the name, but Neelix assures them that it really is hair, and yummy hair indeed. They take the food and sit down at a table away from Kes. She notices, and is visibly miffed.
"Let's talk about that important bridge business," says Paris loudly enough for Kes and Neelix to hear. Before Harry can open his mouth, he is summoned to the bridge. Talk about an antiperspirant moment. Paris tries to concentrate on his food, which is as usual not to his liking. Neelix looks at him and stews in his own bile. Kes finally runs emotionally from the room.
Neelix approaches Paris and calls him a subclass genus. They toss the pasta, then wrestle in it for a few seconds as the other crew in the mess hall do little to intervene--neither are high on the ship's popularity polls. Neelix for his abysmal cuisine, Paris for his checkered past among both the Starfleet and Maquis crew. Their mutual degradation is high entertainment indeed.
Their battle is interrupted by a summons from the captain to report to her ready room, immediately. No time to clean up. A few seconds later they are standing before the captain, dripping pasta and sauce, as she struggles to keep her face neutral while walking around them inspecting the damage. She remains silent long enough to sit down and compose herself, then asks, "would anyone care to explain?" Neither does. She then tells them she wants them to go on an away mission together, to forage for food on Hell. They protest, but don't feel like explaining why, and she explains that they are each the best suited for their aspect of the mission, and nobody else will do. Janeway asks if this is a personal matter. "Yes, captain, it is," Neelix offers. Janeway looks at them, then says "solve it." As they leave, she smirks.
At the briefing, Neelix and Paris learn the nature of the mission, and the difficulties they face. The atmosphere is caustic, so they need to take a spray can with them which should lesson the stinging in the short term. Transporters aren't working, though Kim has some ideas that may let them use the transporters in an emergency. (Foreshadowing...a valid literary technique.) They have no idea where the food is, but the atmosphere is teeming with protiens and amino acids, so it must be there somewhere; they've picked a spot that may be best accessible, though the journey is likely to be tricky. Meeting adjourned.
As Neelix leaves the briefing, Kes tries to talk with him; she heard that he and Paris had gotten into a fight, over her, and she wanted answers. Neelix refused to give her any; "we'll talk after the mission is over," he says. Frustrated, she goes to sickbay, where Holodoc needles her about not eating lunch. Eventually, after he ignored her subtle hints to back off, she gives him a world- class skunk eye, and he finally shuts up. She tells him about the fight, and Holodoc congratulates her; it's a high honor for men to fight over you, he says, and adds that he has autopsy records dating back to the 16th century from various duels over the hand of a woman. Kes recoils; "That's not funny!" Holodoc seems confused. "It wasn't meant to be; you've always liked autopsies."
Kes explains that on her planet, couples mate for life, and there is no question about it. Affairs are unheard of. "Your people must have very dry literature," Holodoc notes, in the best line of the episode. Kes is devoted to Neelix, and is upset that he doesn't accept that. She likes Tom Paris as a friend, and nothing more. Holodoc notes that Paris has obvious feelings for her, though; he says he's observed whenever Kes entered a room Paris occupied, his vital signs changed dramatically; "at first I thought he was suffering from the (gratuitous alien species reference) flu." Remind me to never go to a party with anyone carrying a medical tricorder if someone I like is there. Of course, I haven't needed a tricorder to see Paris' face light up whenever she's around. He's been smitten with her for a while, even if he hasn't known it until now.
On the shuttlecraft, Paris vocalizes the ship's status and his navigation changes. Neelix stews. "We left contact with the ship thirty seconds ago; you don't need to impress me with your ... technobabble," he seethes, in a bow to the word obsessive Trekkies/Trekkers/Treksters/etc have made famous. As with any buddy movie, their first conversations as a team are barely-contained hostility. They finally agree to put their differences aside for the duration of the mission (yeah, right), establish the pecking order, and promptly fall into a Plot Complication--the planet Hell greets them with characteristic hostility, and soon a crash landing is the only possibility. Harry Kim's transporter theory is now a priority as Voyager commences a rescue mission.
Kes is distraught; her mate and her pal are lost and presumed dead, and she needs closure. Harry Kim talks with her briefly, giving her comfort and a dash of reality. She had done nothing to bring this on; she just had the bad fortune of falling in with two headstrong guys who were having a personality conflict at the moment. She wanted to say goodbye, to yell at them for being so goofy over her, and they had denied her the chance. Kim argues convincingly that if anyone could have gotten the shuttle down safely, it was Paris, and Kes finishes with the thought that if anyone can survive on a hostile planet, it's Neelix. Their chances of returning are good, Kim reassures her, so she'll get her chance to kick a little bootie soon enough.
On the surface of Hell, Neelix and Paris argue about what to do next, so they must be okay. But the shuttle (the dead-meat, red-shirted "Ensign Johnson" of this series) is not. They take what they can carry and head for a nearby cave, bombarded by the atmosphere. Once inside, they seal the entrance and phaser some rocks into a heat source, spray themselves down with Bactine, and consider their options. And their frustrations with each other.
It's inevitable, of course; when there's a conflict, introduce another conflict to clarify matters. As they argue, they pick up a life sign which wasn't there before. Neelix asked how Paris did at Starfleet Academy in survival skills. "A B-," Paris says. "My father was teaching the class." "Well, we know he wasn't playing favorites," Neelix snickers. They seek out the lifesign and discover...
A newborn Muppet.
A bunch of eggs, with one hatchling that emerges as they watch. It's a cute little thing in a Muppet Baby sorta way. Not what I'd call a convincing alien, but you take what you can get. They argue over what to do now, and they get nowhere until the hatchling takes matters into its own hands and starts dying. They wrap the kid up and take it with them, still bickering.
On Voyager, rescue efforts continue. And they're making progress. But an alien ship then comes into the picture, firing away and not saying much of anything.
Apparently, Mama's comin' home.
The relationship cycle between Paris and Neelix continues. The better off the baby is, the worse they get alone. When it goes into crisis, they have bonding moments as they solve the immediate problem. They surmise that the child is dying because the air that they can't tolerate is what it needs to survive--it's loaded with vitamins and proteins and other stuff a healthy Muppet needs. They take it to the cave entrance and commence to dig themselves out as the child gasps for food. Paris has all along recommended duty above parental responsibility, but Neelix has de facto adopted the little tyke, and refuses to abandon it even under Paris' direct order. Eventually, his stubbornness gets Paris' creative juices flowing, and he solves the problem, and they get along better as the child stops dying.
Then comes the Buddy Flick payoff: the bonding moment when all the cards are laid on the table. Paris still denigrates Neelix's cooking with relish, but in the matter of Kes he sets Neelix straight. "Yes, I'm attracted to her, but I respect you too much to pursue her. She's devoted to you, Neelix." Neelix protests that she probably just feels some sense of obligation to him for rescuing her from the Kazon. "It goes deeper than that," Paris insists, and says the way she looks at him should be proof that she is more than just grateful, that she's committed to him and nobody's gonna turn her head as long as he's in the picture. Apparently Paris finally succeeds in reaching through the skull layers and convincing Neelix that jealousy is not necessary, that Paris puts his friendship with Kes AND Neelix before any romantic notions he may have, and he will endeavor to find someone else to hit on. (I still want to see those Delaney sisters.)
Now it's Paris' turn to resolve the unresolved. Neelix says how he has heard other crewmen talking, about what kind of person Paris was. Neelix says he doesn't see Paris that way. Paris admits that all the things said about him WERE true, but are no longer; the Delta Quadrant is his second chance at life, and he has no intention of blowing it this time. (Author note: this conversation is mirrored in "Investigations" when Paris tells Neelix what a sham his life on Voyager has been. It means more there in consideration of the conversation here.) As each considers the other (when not gurgling over the newly undead child), several subplots have been wrapped up--Paris and Kes, Paris and Neelix, Neelix and Kes, Paris and Starfleet, Paris and Voyager, Crew and Voyager, yada yada yada. What WE think has been confirmed or denied by what THEY have said openly here. A friendship is forged....
Just in time for Voyager to contact them. They can be beamed out of there, but they need to hurry; another ship is out there, it's hostile, and a life form is approaching them quickly. Neelix asks if Janeway wouldn't mind letting them stay a while longer, in one of those endearing "Aw, do we HAFTA go now?" voices. Paris explains the discovery of the hatchling and the concern that it may be rejected by its people because of their contact with it, and they want to make sure it won't be left to die. Kim tells Janeway they've got a minute before the transporter window closes, and Neelix says, "we'll take it."
As they look on from a safe distance, the large reptilian-avian alien picks up the child and shows it universal signs of affection. Mission accomplished. Then the big alien turns in their direction and gives a hostile noise, and Paris and Neelix respectfully request an immediate beamout.
Kes is waiting for them, and she is relieved to see the two not at each others throats, but almost
enjoying each other's company. The three leave the transporter room arm in arm, with Neelix
explaining a bottle of fowl he's been keeping for a special occasion....and roll credits.
Considering the number of weeks we've had to build up to this episode, I think it was wrapped up a little too neatly. On the other hand, the series has needed the comic relief of a good food fight, as well as a resolution to the increasingly annoying "Neelix is jealous again" subplots.
We have several cultures at work here, each seemingly conflicting in its approach to things romantic. The human, Tom Paris, is hormonally carbonated as the Delaney Sisters will likely confirm, but he is noble enough to be careful when he finally realizes his attraction to Kes. Neelix, the Talaxian, is the jealous type, but he's the only Talaxian we've seen with any frequency, and he acts like any jealous boyfriend who doesn't feel quite secure in his relationship. Kes, the Ocampa, has at least made the effort over the last year or so to give us a glimpse at her culture as well as herself. Her species "mates for life," and that's that. And though their species lives only nine years, that's still longer than most late-20th century American marriages. (Heck, the episode lasted longer than some marriages.)
Considering the treatment Paris and Neelix have received so far in the series, it was a natural choice to make this a humorous episode. The scene between Paris and Harry Kim was very amusing, and played nicely off their personalities. Kes and Holodoc had some great moments together, and his medical description of Paris when she walked into the room was hilarious...but I'm glad nobody has a medical scanner on me during BAYWATCH.
This is one of the few "Janeway's new hairstyle" episodes, and she had let let hair down in more ways than one; usually I'd have expected her to chew Paris and Neelix out, totally unamused. But she actually smirked, and the whole Planet Hell backdrop adds to the mirth factor. She tells them to go to Hell, and can make it an order to be acted on.
Harry Kim was well used here. I'm glad to see him playing the clarinet, so soon after "Non Sequitor." His role as the longsuffering friend to the charismatic but unorthodox Paris, and to the sweet Kes, makes him the ideal intermediary, and he handles it well.
The muppet baby on planet Hell wasn't at all convincing as a sentient infant, but it served its purpose--make the two boneheads work together until they get along.
In a nutshell: pleasant, some good moments, and the end of a subthread that had grown annoying. And with "Projections" and "Elogium" firmly establishing Holodoc as a father figure rather than a romantic interest, Neelix is now officially the only game in town, hopefully with a good enough sense of his standing with Kes that we won't get any more jealousy threads. And maybe, just maybe, they'll make a more convincing couple. I'm not asking for jungle lovin', but more subtle yet overt signs of affection (hand holding, hugging, etc) would be welcome. I recall the moments Picard and Beverly had at their frequent breakfasts. Strictly professional conduct, but they still made a convincing couple. It's the looks they gave, the vocal inflections--the little things that tell people that these two belong together.
On a 0-10 scale, I'd give this one a 6.75. And chalk up one more dead shuttle.
Copyright © 1996 Jim Wright