Written by Tom Szollosi
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Season 2, Episode 7
Production episode 123
Original air date: October 9, 1995
Captain’s log. Paris is training Kes in how to fly a shuttlecraft on the holodeck. At one point, the shuttle comes under attack, and Kes falls into Paris’s lap, which she finds amusing and he finds awkward. They leave the holodeck laughing together, neither noticing Neelix lurking in the corridor looking pissed.
Janeway is concerned about their dwindling food supply. Chakotay says they’ve found a Class-M planet that has amino acid and protein readings, but the atmospheric interference is such that they can’t tell any more than that—and it’s a day out of the way. Janeway says it’s necessary, and they change course.
Paris visits Kim, despondent. He has fallen in love with Kes, and he can’t act on it, out of respect for Neelix (respect for Kes is never mentioned). Meanwhile, Kes and Neelix have what should be a romantic dinner, but it’s made awkward by Neelix’s seething jealousy of Paris.
Voyager arrives at the planet. The atmosphere is full of trigemic vapor that make transport impossible. Chakotay tasks Torres with finding a way to beam through the vapor, but while she does that, Janeway’s going to send a shuttlecraft down.
Kim and Paris go to the mess hall, only to see Kes eating by herself. Paris doesn’t want to sit with her and annoy Neelix, so the two of them sit alone away from her—but then Chakotay summons Kim to the bridge to help Torres with her transporter task. Kes, recognizing the awkwardness for Paris, leaves the mess hall, at which point Neelix confronts Paris and they dump food on each other.
Before Bluto can show up and scream, “Food fight!” they’re both summoned to the captain’s ready room right away, giving them no time to clean up. So they meet with Janeway covered in hair pasta food stains. Janeway wants them to take a shuttle down to the planet to find foodstuffs. Neelix is the ship’s expert on how to turn local flora into food, and Paris is the ship’s best pilot.
They head down, Neelix acting like a complete asshole the entire time. The shuttle then crashes, though Paris is able to crash smoothly enough that neither of them is hurt. The trigemic vapor is also causing skin rashes, so they take refuge in a cave and seal the entrance to keep the vapor out. At no point in their journey across the planet’s surface do they see anything that could be used as food.
Voyager tries to find the away team, but sensors can’t penetrate the atmospheric soup. Torres and Kim keep working on the transporter. And then a ship shows up and challenges them, eventually moving into orbit between Voyager and the planet.
Neelix and Paris come across a bunch of eggs. They didn’t register as life forms on the tricorder, though they do explain the amino acid and protein readings. One of the eggs hatches. Suddenly, Neelix and Paris find themselves the caretakers of a baby alien.
There are openings in the EM interference, but even then, it’s hard to discern the away team’s combadges. Torres suggests they enter the planet’s atmosphere at the next window—but that means getting past the alien ship.
Kes goes to sickbay and is distraught. The EMH asks after her, and she explains about the tension between Paris and Neelix. She always assumed her relationship with Paris was platonic.
The baby starts doing poorly, and Paris and Neelix belatedly realize that the infant needs the trigemic vapor for whatever reason. Neelix considers giving the kid cordrazine, but Paris thinks drugging an alien baby is, perhaps, not the best idea. But he uses the hypospray to pull some trigemic vapor from a gap in the rocks blocking the cave, and hits the kid with it. The kid starts feeling much better.
Voyager manages to get past the alien ship with minimal damage, and then the alien also goes down into the atmosphere. Janeway is able to contact Paris and Neelix, but they ask to hold off on beaming them out until they know for sure the infant is safe.
Sure enough, as the away team guessed once Janeway mentioned an alien ship, Mommy comes by to pick up the baby. Neelix and Paris stay just long enough to make sure that Mommy doesn’t abandon the kid. Then they beam home.
The experience has brought them closer together, and the episode ends with Neelix, Paris, and Kes happily walking down the corridor, Neelix’s arms around both of them, sharing laughter and stories. At no point does anyone mention that they went a day out of their way for nothing and they still have a food crisis…
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Trigemic vapor can apparently really irritate the skin—and that’s it. It’s refreshing to see a Trek Atmospheric Anomaly that only has minor deleterious effects on people, though it does also mess with transporters and sensors.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is rather nonplussed when Paris and Neelix report to her covered in food stains. Although she has clearly stated professional reasons for assigning the two of them to the away team, it’s obvious that she’s hoping working together will have a positive effect on their personal relationship, as indeed it does.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok does some nifty firing of phasers to neutralize the alien ship as a threat.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH has been eavesdropping on conversations on the bridge, which is part of the EMH program, and he barges in to recommend a treatment for the irritation caused by the trigemic vapors. Janeway thanks him and then tells him to stop eavesdropping, please. (“I’m a doctor, not a voyeur.”)
Half and half. Torres, aided by Kim, is able to punch through the interference from the trigemic vapors to allow communication and transport.
Forever an ensign. Probably inspired by his trip to a changed timeline where he was back home, Kim replicates a new clarinet for himself. We see him playing bits of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix’s toxic jealousy comes to a head here, as his response to his anger over the friendship between Paris and Kes is, not to talk about it like a rational adult, but to be pissy at Kes and throw food at Paris. Meanwhile, Paris decides not to have lunch with Kes so as not to annoy Neelix, thus annoying Kes, instead, who leaves the mess hall in a huff, pissed that Paris is treating her badly. Of course, the man’s toxic jealousy must be catered to at the expense of the innocent woman’s feelings.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Kes reveals that the Ocampa tend to simply find one mate for life. (Given that that life is only an average of nine years, there’s not much time for aught else, relationship-wise, though it seems to me that a short-lived species would have multiple mates in order to procreate enough to keep the population viable. Of course, that ship sailed in “Elogium“…)
“You should consider it a high compliment. Throughout history, men have fought over the love of a woman. Why, I can quote you autopsy reports from duels as far back as 1538.”
“That’s not funny.”
“It’s not meant to be—you’ve always been interested in autopsies.”
–The EMH’s doubly unintentionally hilarious response to being told by Kes that Paris and Neelix had a food fight over her.
Welcome aboard. No billed guests in this one, and indeed the only people who appear who aren’t in the opening credits are Majel Barrett in her usual role of the Starfleet computer voice and Allan Shaw covered in latex as the alien’s Mom.
Trivial matters: There are two stated motivators for this episode. One was Michael Piller’s desire to move forward from Neelix’s jealousy, which was growing tiresome, inspired particularly by “Twisted.” In addition, two different magazine articles published in 1995 and 1996 stated that the producers also felt that Paris was underused in season one and needed a focus, which flies in the face of the actual first season, in which there was, if anything, too much Paris.
The ships that fire on Kes in the simulation are Jem’Hadar ships from Deep Space Nine.
“Planet Hell” is the nickname the crew of The Next Generation had for the sound stage that had the generic rocky planet set, and that nickname stuck through TNG, DS9, and Voyager. This is the first time the term has been used on camera, however.
Set a course for home. “If you hear muffled screams, consider that a request for beam-out.” On the one hand, I’m grateful to this episode for addressing several issues with the show to date. Neelix’s jealousy grew tiresome pretty much the first time we saw it, and it never got any better, to the point where it was unclear why Kes still stayed with this piece of garbage. (His gaslighting her in “Twisted,” accusing her of having a terrible sense of direction rather than accept that something was wrong with the ship, should’ve been the last straw, honestly.) And Paris’s flirting with Kes always felt skeevy even by Paris’s low standards.
To this episode’s credit, the latter is addressed by both Paris and Kim, as Paris himself admits that he shouldn’t be flirting with Kes and also admitting that he’s fallen for her. That makes the relationship a bit more complex, especially in a closed system like Voyager. Paris is trying to better himself, and he’s not sure how to do that here.
The problem, of course, is that no one actually talks to each other about it. The only person Paris talks to is Kim, not either of the other two people involved. Neelix just stews in his own juices and acts out toward Kes, and eventually finally also at Paris. And poor Kes is left to be ignored by Paris and bitched at by Neelix because nobody can have a mature conversation on the subject.
So I’m glad that this whole mishegoss is done with by the end of the episode. Neelix and Paris bond over raising the cute alien baby (who, I gotta say, reminds me so much of the baby from Dinosaurs that I was just waiting for it to cry out, “Not the Mama!“), and in the end all three of them are friends.
On the other hand, in order to get there, we have to suffer through an hour of my two least favorite characters on the show. It boggled my mind to read that the episode was prompted by a belief that Paris was underused in season one, as it flies in the face of the season one that I just watched. (Hell, he was pretty much the POV character and lead protagonist of “Caretaker” and “Heroes and Demons” portrayed him as if he were in charge of the damn ship.)
I appreciate that Paris is trying to improve himself, and he will over the course of the series, but the show is way more invested in it than I am, and I mostly find the character unpleasant. Neelix can be a strong, complex character—”Jetrel” proved that—but the writers have proven to be less interested in showing that than in having him be a tired caricature, a mix of Scrappy Doo and a 1950s male sitcom protagonist.
Having said that, I like the bits with the alien baby, which are clichéd, but fun anyhow. This is a desperately needed moving forward for the characters, with a standard sci-fi plot to keep things moving.
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest work is an essay in ZLONK! ZOK! ZOWIE!: The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66—Season One, in which he discusses the episode “Fine Feathered Finks”/”The Penguin’s a Jinx.” Each essay is about a story in the Adam West TV show of five decades past, and you can order it now from Amazon in trade or eBook form.