It's really cliche, the conflict resolution appears to come out of left field, but...I still kinda like it.
We've all seen this "work through adversity and become allies" plot before - and strictly speaking, the details are extraordinarily tepid (as you can see here), but this episode doesn't stand on plot construction.
I like this episode for three main reasons:
- I like what it does for Kes's character. The woman has been PAINFULLY oblivious to Tom's infatuation. Neelix's insane jealousy thing is not all Neelix's fault, though he could certainly have shown more maturity if it were in him to do so - it's been obvious since the end of first season that Tom had a bit of a thing for Kes. But that naivete on her part makes sense. Her species lives for nine years, rapidly maturing to physical adulthood - they therefore have no problems choosing one life partner and mating permanently. She barely understands her own far less complicated mating practices, let alone absorbing human sexual norms (or Talaxian). Her scene with the doctor was badly needed, and this was about the right place to put it.
- I like what it does for Tom's character. Y'know...I never gave Paris enough credit. Having seen the first season version of Paris with a fresh perspective on his latter character arc, the guy really did mature an awful lot in the seven seasons of Voyager canon, and go through some of the more interesting changes in the series' history. It's funny, because Kim was supposed to be the one that grew into an impressive man and officer and he never truly changed - it was Tom would brought the maturity to their bromance and, eventually, to his relationship with Torres (after a period of really REALLY cheesy Hollywood romance). Not only that, but he's had to take responsibility for his mistakes many times, and he, along with Seven of Nine and the EMH are the only ones to really question Janeway's moral compass and command worthiness (except for one brief, shining moment for Chakotay in "Scorpion"). In this episode, we see his initial instincts (to flee from danger, rather than taking responsibility for the creature he inadvertently imperiled) and then we see him soften when faced with actually abandoning the baby sauran creature (we'll see more of the sauran race in later Voyager episodes, so this is an interesting little foreshadow).
- I like what it does for Neelix' character! We are three for three, ladies and gentlemen!! Neelix may be a survival moron (he's young, eager, and inexperienced, but wants desperately to be of use to his new family - I know some teenagers like that, so I forgive Neelix for his stupidity), but his heart is in the right place. He really does believe in defending the defenseless and in trying to do the right thing. The adolescent pasta-throwing stuff is par for the course for a teenager in love, albeit annoying to watch (sorry...it does still chafe the eyeballs), but there is a good man inside of him, and it's nice when we actually get to see it through all the idiocy.
See what I did there? I pointed out the key to Voyager not sucking. CHARACTERS! They actually did something for three of their main characters this week! (cue Hallelujah chorus)
The pot is really...really flat. There's no getting past the point that the biggest threat anyone faces on this little adventure is itchy skin welts and a pissed off mommy raptor. And she isn't there for the first 40 minutes. The rest is just flying, crashing, walking around, and bickering. It's slower than you'd like for something that actually accomplishes as much as it does. You'd like to see Neelix and Tom face a tougher "quest" and have to work together more. And you'd like to see the mother on the planet full time, rather than at the last moment, but it's Voyager...you can't always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need!
Let's Go With It!
They finally got the character-stuff right, so I don't have to tell them how to do their job on that front for once! Woohoo!!
No...the problem this time is the plot. If you're gonna do an "enemies quest together and become allies" plot, you need to follow the format and actually have a quest. I don't want to say that artists are required to follow formulas, but certain types of stories work on a formula because that's the only way to make them interesting. This isn't a "bottle story" - those involve placing two people in a confined space and forcing them to reconcile their differences to keep from killing each other. This is a "quest story"...sans quest. That's a fail. They needed to increase the jeopardy...and the tension between Tom and Neelix...for this to really work. There needed to be a reason why Tom would finally admit how he felt about Kes and for Neelix to accept Tom's word that nothing would ever happen. As it stands, they simply start talking to fill the boredom after they get Dino Jr. breathing again while they wait for Mommy to arrive. It's...forced. And more than a little pat. If they gave the plot more drama, this could have been on par with any number of Renee Echevarria scripts from DS9.
A flawed plot with great characterization and a feel-good conclusion that, and perhaps this makes me a sucker for cheesy tooth-rotting pathos, makes me glad I put up with the sluggish pacing.
Ethan Phillips, Jennifer Lien, Robert Picardo and even Robert Duncan McNeil (who I'm not too big a fan of as an actor) all gave above average performances and made the character stuff work without much of a plot superstructure.
SFDebris is awfully hard on Neelix - I see all of those flaws that he sees, but I also believe that he really is ideally suited to be "morale officer" if for no other reason than that he always tries so hard to make people happy and he's so goofy and so well-meaning in everything he does that it's damn near impossible to be unhappy around him...or take him all that seriously. :)