Star Trek: Voyager
Originally Broadcast September 18th, 1995
Reviewed by Christina Luckings
Commander Chakotay walks along a corridor to the turbolift. When the doors open, he sees couple sharing a romantic moment. Realising they have been caught, the pair apologise and leave, giggling. Chakotay steps into the lift, followed by Tom Paris who asks what that was about. The First Officer calls it ‘indiscreet fraternisation’ and Paris regrets having missed it.
Later in the Kitchen, Kes thanks Tom for helping her carry the vegetables up from airponics and he replies with ‘see you later’. Inspecting the produce, Neelix discovers a beetle among the cabbage leaves. Kes explains that it is a spawn beetle which she uses to do the cross-pollination of various crops for her and comments on it’s lovely markings. Neelix is not in a mood to appreciate nature, and tersly comments that he doesn’t think the Captain would be very pleased to find it crawling on her salad. Then he asks her if Tom Paris is helping out in the airponics bay these days, and if she has made arrangements to meet him later. Annoyed at his jealousy, Kes assures him that there is nothing between her and Tom. Neelix is seeing other things in it however, if not on her side then certainly on Tom’s. Captain Janeway calls the senior officers to the bridge, and on his way out, Tom says ‘take care’ to Kes. Neelix abruptly thanks her for helping with the cabbage and Kes glares at him before she storms out.
Up on the bridge, Voyager has detected a strange magnetic disturbance nearby, and they are going to take a closer look. Captain Janeway quizzes Chakotay about why he appears preoccupied, and he tells her about the couple in the turbolift. Perhaps they should establish a policy on fraternisation, he wonders. The Captain says that Starfleet has always been reluctant to regulate personal lives, but Chakotay points out that they are in a unique situation. Problems could arise which wouldn’t happen on other ships where transfers are available. Janeway admits that, but also recognises that the crew are going to begin to pair off eventually. All they have out here is each other, and they are lonely. Not that she will be pairing off, however. She doesn’t have that luxury as Captain, and anyway she fully intends to get everyone home before Mark has given her up for dead.
Back in hydroponics, Kes is tending her plants, with a tray of the spawn beetles near by. Absentmindedly she puts her hand into the tray and gathers up some of the insects, but instead of putting on them on the plants, she starts to eat them. When she realises what she is doing, she is horrified.
The ship comes into visual range of the disturbance, and a magnified image reveals a swarm of nearly two thousand space-dwelling life forms. They move closer to do a bio-scan and the creatures accelerate away, moving at over three thousand kilometres per second. Captain Janeway orders Ensign Wildman, who is at the auxiliary science station, to scan for any signs of communication while Chakotay comments on the results of the bio-scans. With no digestive system that they can see, he postulates that they absorb their nutrients through their skin while moving. The particle density here isn’t very high, which may be why they have to keep moving so fast.
Feeling quilty about being so jealous in the mess hall, Neelix calls on Kes in her quarters with a bunch of flowers. When the doorbell chimes, Kes grabs several food containers and hides them in a cupboard before letting him in. He goes to the cupboard to look for a vase for the flowers, but she blocks his way. Then he takes the bowl out of her hands and looks around to see other plates of halfeaten food all around her quarters. Her current dish is mashed potatoes with butter. He samples it but it is not to his taste. However, Kes thinks it’s delicious, especially with a container of nitrogenated soil added to it. So much so that she has had six bowls so far. Then she begins to eat two apples at once, while telling him about the spawn beetles. Neelix becomes concerned and contacts sickbay to warn the EMH that he is bringing a patient in. Kes does not want to go and struggles against him as he picks her up in a fireman’s lift and carries her out, still eating voraciously.
The swarm is changing course, but Janeway tells Paris to drop back a little in case their presence is disturbing the creatures. However, Kim reports that they are accelerating instead and Tuvok identifies a magnetic wake that is pulling Voyager along. The helm does not respond and the shields are not working. A fluctuation in the EPS grids is interfering with the impulse engines, and using the warp engines could cause serious harm to the creatures, so Janeway call engineering to ask Torres for suggestions. B’Elanna comes up with a targ scoop, a high frequency tone that disperses targ herds from the path of ground vehicles. Janeway likes the idea, and allows her to modify the main deflector to create the required inverted magnetic pulse.
Neelix has succeeded in getting Kes to sickbay, where the EMH is conducting an examination whilst she lies on a biobed. There are dark rings forming uner her eyes and she seems rather hot. He concludes that her unusual cravings might just be the result of a nutrient deficiency. She also has a raised temperature and high levels of electrophoretic activity in her nervous system, corresponding to the raised levels thoughout the ship’s atmosphere and probably caused by the presence of the space creatures. Neelix becomes increasingly agitated until the EMH has to order him out of sickbay by threatening to call security. He goes straight to the bridge and complains to the Captain that he is being kept from the side of his extremely-ill beloved by a hologram who doesn’t know what is wrong with her. Just then the EMH calls the bridge to ask the Captain to come down to sickbay. There is a bit of a problem.
The problem is that the non-cooperative Kes has barracaded herself into the EMH’s office with a forcefield. The EMH suspects the swarm is causing her fever, rapid pulse and high blood pressure and recommends that Voyager leaves the area immediately. The Captain tells him that it is not an option at the moment. Then the EMH tells her that he has discovered a strange growth on Kes’s back that has only recently appeared. Neelix tries to talk to the distraught Ocampa, but Janeway intervenes. Kes lets the forcefield down and sobs her explanation to Janeway. She knows what the growth is, and what it is for. It is the mitral sac, where her child will develop, but she is too young to go through this yet. It shouldn’t be happening for another couple of years and she is not ready. This is the time, the elogium, when an Ocampa has her children, and it only comes once in a lifetime.
Captain Janeway returns to the bridge and Chakotay tells her that Torres should have her modifications done in half an hour. They go through to the Ready Room where Janeway explains to him about Kes’s situation. In the next forty or fifty hours, she has to decide if she wants to become a mother, and she is going to talk to Neelix about it. When Voyager left DS9 on a three week mission, who would have thought they’d be considering becoming a generational ship. Chakotay points out that within 30 years they will need a replacement crew anyway, and Janeway muses on the difficulties of raising children on a starship in potentially hostile space. However, she cannot order anyone not to have children. It will have to be up to the people concerned to make their own decisions.
The first couple to face that decision are talking it over in Kes’s quarters. Neelix is concerned about whether it is safe for her to have a child so young. He had never considered being a father until now, and is concerned about the responsibility of raising a child on a starship, with all it’s inbuilt hazards of power conduits and the like. Kes has always assumed she would be a mother, just not so soon, and challenges Neelix that he is just thinking about how much trouble a child would cause him. Then she holds up her hands and shows him the ipasaphor forming there, like a sticky gel, and tells him that they have only fifty hours to begin the process, which will require them to remain bonded together for six days. He tells her that he’ll get back to her, and leaves to think about it. Kes curls up on her bed, and tries to rest.
It is lunchtime in the messhall, and Tuvok asks a somewhat disctracted Neelix what the special is today? The Chef confesses that he hasn’t actually made a special, but there is leftover stew from the previous night which is available with or without pepper sauce. Without, replies Tuvok and takes his meal to a table. Neelix comes over and asks Tuvok about his family, and what it is like to be a father. The Vulcan tells him that he has four children, who he thinks about more than ever now they are so far away. Despite the responsibilities, he has found fatherhood to be very rewarding, but if Neelix is having any doubts, then perhaps he should not become a parent himself. It is an overwhelming experience, Tuvok tells him with characteristic Vulcan understatement. Neelix is starting to warm to the idea of having a boy to whom he could teach survival skills, piloting, romantic techniques. Tuvok points out that the child could be a daughter, which brings him up sharply. He has nothing to teach a daughter! That would be the mother’s role. Why should that be, challenges Tuvok. His daughter benefits from her father’s guidance as much as his three sons. It is unfortunate that he is so far from them all now. Neelix understands, and thanks Tuvok for sharing his views.
Torres is at the engineering station on the bridge, ready to use the inverted magnetic pulse. The field seems to work, but then some of the creatures attach themselves to the warp nacelles, and Voyager suffers a massive energy drain. Something comes towards them, and Ensign Wildman identifies it as a larger version of the creatures. The parent, suggests Tuvok, or a different gender, counters Chakotay. It will require further observation to find out. They try moving away from the bulk of the swarm but the larger creature follows them and attacks Voyager with a charged plasma stream. Although the shields hold and there is no significant damage, Torres wants to retaliate. Janeway disagrees. Until serious damage is threatened, she regards the creatures as the local life form and themselves as intruders. Chakotay notices that some small creatures are attaching themselves to the large one just as others have attached themselves to Voyager. That’s because the plasma stream has a similar subspace signature as the warp nacelles, Kim reports. Chakotay concludes that as the small creatures are behaving in the same way towards both Voyager and the large creature, the ship has been mistaken for one of their own kind. Possibly as a potential mate.
Neelix returns to Kes’s quarters with the good news that he is willing to father her children. The strain of the situation is telling on the young woman. She has not been able to rest for worry, as the black rings under her eyes testify. Relieved that he is willing to become a father, kes tells him that the next step is for one of her parents to massage her feet until her tongue begins to swell. As Captain Janeway is busy at the moment, she’ll ask the EMH to do it for her, and be back in an hour for them to begin the bonding.
While the EMH is massaging her feet, Kes muses on whether she is doing the right thing. On Ocampa her father would be doing this, and offering her guidance on becoming a parent but here she is on her own. Whilst the EMH is facinated by the biology, he cannot offer any perspective on parenthood. Kes continues to ponder her situation out loud. While Neelix was opposed to becoming a father, she was sure that she wanted a child. Now that he is all for it, she is having doubts. Is she mature enough, responsible enough? There is still so much she wants to study and learn, so much growing that she herself has to do, how can she help a child to grow?
Chakotay is persuading Captain Janeway that the large creature sees Voyager as a rival, and she asks Torres to generate a short impulse burst to move them away from the swarm. However, the burst brings the large creature charging towards them and ramming the ship. Tuvok begins to agree with Torres that they may have to retaliate in order to get away. Launching a probe fails to distract it, and once the shields fall to forty-seven percent, Janeway orders Paris to set course to ram the creature. All that does is get it to hit them harder. When the Captain orders the detonation of photon charges to try and scare it off, Chakotay finally steps in to point out that perhaps they are going about this the wrong way. Every aggressive move Voyager makes just gets a more aggressive one in response. Unless they are prepared to destroy the creature, they need to change tactics. Janeway does not want to kill it, so she listens to her first officer’s idea. Why not behave submissively, suggests Chakotay, acknowledge his dominance like the smaller creatures do. They change colour and roll over, and Voyager should mimic that behaviour. Venting plasma residue might make us look blue, suggests Kim, and Paris think they have just enough power to do a roll. So Voyager rolls, and the small creatures begin to leave the warp nacelles and go back to the big creature. Having lost their sexual attraction, Janeway orders Voyager to move away, and comments ‘if I have any questions about mating behaviour, I’ll know where to go,’ to Chakotay.
Kes approaches a quiet Neelix in the kitchen area of a darkened mess hall. She had decided not to conceive after all and Neelix is disappointed at missing his chance at fatherhood. Kes reassures thim that the EMH thinks that this was a false elogium brought on by the space creatures electrophoretic field, and that there is a possibility she might be able to go through it all again when she is four or five. Neelix brightens up a this news. He wants them to have a daughter, a daughter who looks just like her mother.
“Captain’s Log, Stardate 48921.3. I continue to wonder about the issue of procreation aboard the ship. Certainly, it’s wrong to interfere with the private lives and decisions of the crew, yet I remain concerned about the environment we could provide for any child born here.”
Captain Janeway is looking at a picture of Mark in her Ready room when Ensign Wildman rings the doorbell. She has come to inform the Captain of her physical condition. Her husband is at Deep Space Nine, and they had been trying for months, and she was only supposed to be away for a couple of weeks, and she wasn’t even sure until a few days ago, but….
A baby is going to be born on Voyager after all.
At last, a long hard look at a very important problem in going on a 75 year trans-quadrant cruise – where do you get new crewmembers from? This subject needed to be firmly addressed and they have chosen to use the only truly established couple on board as their protagonists. Which raises a few questions in this reviewer’s mind. Firstly, Kes and Neelix are from completely unrelated species, so how could they hope procreate without massive medical intervention? Humans and chimps share 99% of their DNA and yet are totally incompatible so how much more so for races from different planets entirely? In the Trek universe however, cross breeding happens all the time, so I really shouldn’t grip. The second issue is the statement that the Ocampa only get one chance to have children. Or a child, as Kes keeps saying. With only one child per set of parents, there shouldn’t be any Ocampa at all! Behind all this is the issue of how to behave when studying space creatures, and the discovery that Chakotay can spot a mating ritual at any distance, in any species.
Frankly, the episode doesn’t quite work. There are a lot of good ideas that never quite gel on screen, and the whole thing feels like a missed opportunity. Jennifer Lien does a good job as the distraught teenager with some difficult dialogue and it is only her performance that keeps the whole thing from being a dreadful disaster.