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Parturition

WARNING: The article below contains spoilers for VOY's "Parturition".

In brief: A step up from "Twisted" ... but topping out at "okay" is not what I had in mind.

Brief summary: As tensions between Neelix and Lt. Paris come to a head, their shuttle crash-lands on a desolate planet, where they find a clutch of reptilian eggs ... one of which hatches before their eyes.

As I said above, "Parturition" was significantly better than "Twisted", and "Twisted" itself was better than "Elogium". However, so far that means we're really only up to "okay", and that's not all that impressive. "Parturition" certainly wasn't *bad*, but I didn't find it particularly good -- in fact, I didn't find it much of anything.

There were some things that, in isolation, were worth seeing. For instance, I appreciate the fact that the Neelix/Paris relationship has actually *progressed*, in that the jealousy arc seems to have finally run its course. [Thank heavens ... if it went on for much longer, I'd have to start bringing earplugs for those scenes or something...] I also thought that actually having to search for food was a note of realism we're seeing all too infrequently.

So what's the problem? Well, most of it's simply that I was bored. Although some of the character moments worked in a vacuum, there was nothing here that worked well enough to catch my undivided attention. There weren't any real surprises: once the jealousy angle really came to a head, it seemed clear that it was about to be resolved; neither Paris nor Neelix was likely to be killed down on the planet; and the show was unlikely to end with people any more angry at each other (such as Kes) than they originally were. So what I was left with was the hope for a diverting hour ... and quite honestly, I was checking my watch. A lot.

There were certainly some cute moments, though. Seeing Kim actually play the clarinet was entertaining, as was his pop-psychology analysis of Paris. Way up on the list of good moments was Janeway's rather abrupt refusal to take Paris's and Neelix's annoyances into account. Paris's discussion of his survival training course and the grade he got ("B-minus? That's not very heartening." "My father was teaching the course that year.") was also a treat. The doctor's and Kes's discussion of romance and jealousy was reasonable, even if it was marred significantly by Robert Picardo's decision to do some very strange things with his voice during that scene. (The line about her world having very dry literature also prompted a remark about the show having dry scenes. :-) ) Kim's and Kes's discussion of Paris also worked pretty well. Basically, many of the quieter moments in the character side of things worked ... just not compellingly.

(Astute readers will note that nowhere do I mention a Neelix moment as cute. This is not, in fact, a mistake. The character was better than usual here, perhaps because he actually got to grow a bit ... but he's still damned annoying by now.)

Not all of the character moments worked, however. Apparently, in the 24th century, when someone falls in love (or thinks he/she has), the immediate and required response is to act like a total idiot. The cafeteria scene *hurt*, on a lot of levels -- and the sitcom-esque "oh, now I've caught you; I must throw pasta on you and jump up and down" response of Neelix didn't help. Nor did the "I am a doctor, not a voyeur" statement -- it was funny *once*.

When one gets into the plot, there are some more questionable moments. First of all, there's the shuttle "demolition derby", as I've seen some call it. All three of the VOY episodes actually filmed for this season -- "Initiations", "Non Sequitur", and now "Parturition" -- have featured a shuttle being destroyed. (Yes, I forgot about "Initiations" back when I reviewed "Non Sequitur", as roughly seventeen thousand people reminded me later.) I can believe that Voyager would have three shuttles, though it seems just a little excessive for a crew of 150 or so. However, any more than that is *really* pushing things; some discussion of replacing shuttles better crop up soon or else the starship Voyager's going to have to be renamed the starship Cornucopia.

Second, the plot down on the planet was, well ... goofy. Leaving aside the questionable logic of hiding from an irritating atmosphere in a cave that will make it far more *difficult* for you to be rescued, and leaving aside the "ooh, eggs are hatching ... let's watch!" attitude that threw caution out the window (hasn't anyone in the crew seen "Alien"? :-) ), the whole thing just felt silly. The baby "repto- humanoid", as the press release called it, was the worst of the lot -- as soon as it hatched, I can't imagine I was the only one who yelled out an immediate "I'm the baby -- gotta love me!" back at the screen. After that, nothing else felt quite the same. :-)

On a technical level ... um ... what's to say beyond the usual? There was way too much technobabble (like the doctor taking two minutes to describe what was, in essence, sunburn) -- as usual. There were some seriously bizarre statements (like proteins hanging around in the atmosphere *as gases*) -- as usual. Admittedly, there seemed to be fewer than usual, which is good ... but it'd be even better if the statements made were *right*, or at least interesting. (Hell, I'd settle for "plausible" sometimes.)

That would seem to about cover it, I think. "Parturition", as I said, wasn't particularly bad. But "Voyager" has had a string of iffy shows lately, ranging from late last season to now -- and something better than "not bad" is really necessary to get my enthusiasm back up. (Hopefully, "Persistence of Vision" will do it in a few weeks.)

So, wrapping up:

Writing: Silly plot, decent characters. Directing: I liked the way Frakes arranged the Kim/Paris scene early on, but beyond that I'm not sure there was much to do. Frakes is on when he has good material. Acting: McNeill was good -- his "second chance" discussion helped quite a bit. Beyond that ... mostly fine. OVERALL: Smack in the middle of the road, I think -- a 5. Okay, but nothing to sneeze at.

NEXT WEEK: Nothing; the show's being pre-empted for a bad movie.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) tlynch@alumni.caltech.edu "If you hear muffled screams, consider that a request for a beam-out." -- Paris Copyright 1995, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.

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