Well I’ll say this for this week’s homework assignment; at least there wasn’t any time travel or time loop hooey to keep things stale. Instead we get a couple of episodes that start off dealing with the issue of limited and quickly depleting resources before spinning off into something else entirely. Through it all we get to know some of our characters a bit better, some gross aliens and meta-commentary about how the Voyager crew just keeps doing it to themselves.
To answer a hanging question I had last week, Neelix does in fact seem to know what he’s talking about…for the most part. This episode finds him directing the Voyager to a lone planetoid rich in dilithium so that they can, in layman’s terms, fill up on gas. Of course nothing is as it seems and when they’re investigating, Neelix’s lungs get stolen. Yup.
The Voyager and Co. are in uncharted waters and as such you would think that they’d be a little more cautious, after all, you never know when something is going to steal your cook’s lungs. Granted if they were able to scope out the organ harvesting uglies there would be no conflict and there in lies an issue that Battlestar Galactica handled so well. Conflict is just as common within as it is from without, if not more so given just how big space is. While Neelix’s missing air-bags did bring us to some conflict on the ship–whether or not saving him only to live forever strapped to a hospital bed, Janeway’s dilemma when it came to capturing the aliens who stole and already used his lungs, etc–it all felt like going through the motions. The stakes weren’t that big. Star Trek, of all things, wouldn’t let a main character die at the hands of two lame aliens four episodes into its run. You never really buy that Neelix might kick the bucket, but we do get some more nice moments between Kes and The Doctor. It’s hard to ignore how much fun the writers had with The Doctor. He and Paris really steal the screen whenever they’re on it.
Finally! This is the kind of episode I’ve been waiting for. Opening with a classic “Captains Log” we find Janeway walking the corridors of Voyager while her diary narrates the new issues her predicament raises for a captain. When you and your crew are the only representatives of a few cultures for light years upon light years how does her job description change? How does she balance the role of captain with her new found role of matriarch? The crew doesn’t quite know what to think of her either. As she walks through engineering a frantic B’Elanna apologizes for not knowing about an inspection “Not an inspection, Lieutenant. A Stroll.” Similarly she stops to talk to Paris and Kim about Neelix’s cooking and afterward Kim feels bad about not asking her to sit. “Ensigns don’t ask captains to sit,” Paris tells him. Dopey Kim wants to be a nice guy, but Paris–the very model of a modern Starfleet gentleman?–knows how that shit works. Hence prison.
As Janeway ponders over these questions she runs head first into several characters who are also showing off their “who we are” muscle this week. We get Neelix remodelling Janeway’s private dining room into a galley. Paris and Kim are elbowing up to the felt in a swanky holodeck recreation of a French pool hall. Then there’s Chakotay trying to introduce Janeway to her animal spirit guide, a move that both tries to establish the Captain/Commander relationship that is such a Star Trek staple as well as build on Chakotay’s own character. These are all great character moments that all ultimately get sidelined for most of the episode because that ol’ Star Trek standby–a nebula/gas/sentient cloud–has some omicron do-dads they need for…something… Naturally it all goes wrong and they end up wasting more energy than they collect. In an awesome bit of meta-commentary on how foolish these adventures tend to be, both Neelix and The Doctor, independently of one another, voice their concern over the need to dive head first into so many anomalies. Too bad Kes is the only one who listens to either of them.
The cloud turns out to actually be a living life form–natch–and after they blast their way out of its belly they go to great lengths to fix it. Janeway’s such a bleeding heart. Kirk would have left without even so much as “Oh…sure I’ll call you sometime…”
The episode ends on a scene very reminiscent of the TNG crew’s poker games.
Janeway sets up a hustle (Is this pool or billiards? Hand me that stick) and shows that she not only knows her way around a pool table, but that in the right setting she can take off her captain hat and just be one of the gang.
This episode was a step in the right direction for me. It finally took some time to show how its characters are coping with their new situation. I would have preferred more of that and less space cloud, but I guess I’ll take it.
-Chakotay said they had less than 40 photon torpedoes. I’ll double check the number, but they used one. I WILL keep track of that, because something tells me they’ll use way more than they got.
-B’Elanna tried to kill her spirit animal. Classic B’Elanna!
-I hope we see more of Paris’ holodeck pool hall.
-Oh yeah, the aliens–whose medical tech was WAY more advanced than Voyager’s–that stole Neelix’s lungs were infected with a two millennium old disease that was destroying their people. Feel free to walk around a bit. Nothing bad could possibly happen.