Thursday, 16 January 2014

Review: Voyager 2.4: Elogium

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Jennifer Lien gets cheese rubbed on her hands. Or something.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Two, Episode Four (Season One, Episode Eighteen) - Elogium
Written 17/6/13

The writers are fucking weird. This is the conclusion I've come to after witnessing for the second or third time Elogium, an episode which aims for a Jetrel-style rumination on a theme and throws so much uncomfortable comedy and hijinks along the way that I'm not quite sure what to do say about it. Its intentions are certainly noble - while DS9 was content to talk about sex and sexuality, Elogium follows a different path and decides to stroke past the Abortion debate by wondering about what it means to be a parent, with under-age parenthood being a notable theme. Also, the ship gets mated with. Make of that what you will.
     The ship passes through a swarm of tiny space life-forms that attach themselves to the ship and start draining its power. At the same time, Kes starts to go through the Elogium, or Ocampan puberty, which features a number of odd features such as cravings for insects, flowers and dirt, as well as hot flushes, gooey hands, a growing sac on their back and a tongue that swells if you rub their feet. A larger life-form appears and Chakotay works out that their engines mimic the sexual pheromones of their species, and that they've become a sexual rival. Neelix panics about becoming a father with Kes, with her claiming that this is their only chance. When he works out his issues, she then too has second thoughts. They escape the swarm and Kes' condition reverses; it was caused by the swarm, and they have a chance again in the future.
     Both Kes and Neelix' worries about prospective parenthood covered a number of decent points surrounding the subject, with standardly annoying asshole Neelix worried about the core principles of looking after a child and fully prepared to treat his children differently based on their sex (he's put right by Tuvok, in keeping with good Star Trek principles) and Kes' worries about her own inexperience and the stresses upon both mother and child that her relatively under-age pregnancy would create. Had it been the 100% focus of the episode, I think it would have really broken some ground in regards to the topics that Trek can cover, and what was there was done well despite Neelix's continuing angry jealousy, possessiveness, condescension and, if this episode is to be believed, slight paedophilia. (Kes hasn't hit puberty yet.) Way to make their relationship another five ounces of creepy.
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The ship is involved in an alien mating ritual.
     I say it would have worked, but of course this episode had other things on its mind. The shoe-horning in of Ensign Wildman's pregnancy (a very long-term Voyager plotline) as well as the whole ship-becomes-sexual-rival thing robbed the episode of its concept's key poignancy. Plus, how the fuck did the writers come up with Ocampan pregnancy? The amount of stuff that's involved for basic reproduction is a bit silly considering that this is a basic evolutionary need, and the fact that it's claimed that their species can only produce one child per couple makes the maths a bit off. There's an atmosphere of silliness and of the absurd that fills in the rest of the episode's parenchyma, and as a result any discussion on serious allegories gets shoved firmly to the side.
     Elogium, for all of its attempts to make some small commentary on sexual maturity, parenthood and the strange reproductive systems of alien species, was doused a little by its own ambition, and the tongue-in-cheek manner which is gave its subject matter stopped it dead in its tracks from ever being as astoundingly brilliant as some of its recent predecessors. Continuing to highlight Neelix as a character when he's really this annoying is not doing the series any favours, and I tell ya this continues well into the show, pretty much up until Kes' departure and the show's sudden capacity to get a motherfucking grip.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: For you, Harry Kim passes into a parallel universe where everything is sunshine and roses, and he's still not happy, in Non-Sequiter. For me, well, I'm heading over to Twisted. See ya.

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