ElogiumBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:01 PM GMT
See Also: 'Elogium' Episode Guide
Chakotay catches two crewmembers smooching in a turbolift, gets hot and bothered, and asks Janeway whether she's considered instituting a fraternization policy. Janeway says it's natural that on a mission like this, people will begin to pair off, at which Chakotay (with a long look at her upswept hair) demands, "Including you?" Janeway blushes and stammers that, as captain, that's a luxury she doesn't have, then quickly brings up Mark, her regular excuse. She's spared any further arousal when they're interrupted about the menace of the week, a giant blob of what look like - I kid you not - space sperm.
Down in the arboretum, Kes begins to eat spawn beetles, then mashed potatoes with soil mixed in. Neelix realizes something is wrong and takes her to the Doctor, who tells her she has a growth on her back. Kes panics and explains to Janeway that she is going through the elogium, the Ocampa equivalent of puberty - but because Ocampa have such short life spans, this is her only chance to have a baby. Janeway attempts to comfort her and says she'll back any decision Kes makes, then has a tete-a-tete with Chakotay over steaming soup to discuss the possibility that the crew might need to start having children in order for the ship to get home.
Kes begins the mating ritual with Neelix, but ultimately decides that she's not ready to give up so much of her life to raising a child. Neelix is sad but resigned, and the Doctor tells Kes that because the elogium was triggered by an outside force, she might go through it again at the proper time.
Meanwhile, the more passive space aliens demonstrate sexual attraction to Voyager and adhere to the hull, while a large, angry rival wants to compete for alpha male status. Chakotay suggests that Voyager roll over and turn blue, acknowledging the alien's superiority, and the ship escapes. Janeway tells Chakotay that the next time she needs advice about mating behavior, she'll know where to go - yes, that is an exact quote - and the two share a grin in full view of the entire bridge crew.
I still can't believe they did this. NOT that I'm complaining, mind you. A serious, sophisticated episode about sex, on Star Trek? What is happening to this franchise? Is it possible that the writers have finally grown up, that this is no longer a show for adolescent males?
Well, it's too soon to tell, but this episode made me ecstatically happy. First of all, they're finally dealing with Voyager's unique situation - it's all well and good for Janeway to run her mouth about how they're a Starfleet vessel which must adhere to Starfleet protocols, but if she's too rigid about those protocols than they may never get home. It's not only psychologically important for her to allow crewmembers to date; their successful return home may depend on it.
And it's wonderful to see that she's not planning to bury her own sexuality on the holodeck. Yes, she's still using the dogsitter as a reason for not confronting the obvious chemistry between herself and Chakotay, but this episode shows beyond a shadow of doubt that she's aware he's attracted to her, she's attracted to him, and the writers of this series know it. This is not something that can be easily swept under the carpet with a declaration of "I'm the captain." It's a complex, passionate dynamic, with a lot of room for warmth and humor - Mulder and Scully without all the darkness, and with some compelling reasons for exploring the romantic possibilities. I've been waiting YEARS to see this on Trek.
I want this show to continue to explore domestic issues as well as outer space - I love that this Trek has a kitchen and that this crew plays pool together. But I was also delighted Kes did not decide that she must have a child in order to be a happy, fulfilled woman. It's so refreshing to see a woman make a choice not to give into the supposed biological imperative to reproduce, that she was smart enough to realize that she wants to be herself before she chooses to be a mother.
I also liked Janeway's maternal relationship with her as it unfolded in this episode - with the exception of Torres' cliched violent Klingon impulses, this was a masterful demonstration of women being strong and feminine at the same time. I wasn't too happy that the aliens fell into typical tough-guy, passive-female stereotypical roles, nor that Chakotay took it for granted that the aggressive alien must be the male, but that's a nitpick in this episode.
At the moment, Voyager is my favorite Trek series ever - I love this crew, I love the relationships between them, I love the issues they're choosing to explore. I realize that I'm probably in the minority - that the boyz probably want bigger space battles and no more girl talk. Boy, do I hope Jeri Taylor can keep resisting the lowest common denominator commercial impulse, and keep writing material like this.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.