HomesteadBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 11:26 PM GMT
See Also: 'Homestead' Episode Guide
Chakotay interrupts Neelix's First Contact Day celebration to tell Janeway that sensors have picked up Talaxian lifeforms in an asteroid field nearby. Neelix heads out on the Flyer with Tuvok and Paris, but the shuttle is shot down. He wakes in a room deep inside an asteroid, where a Talaxian woman named Dexa is caring for him. The regent Oxilon has ordered him held within a forcefield; the Talaxians on this asteroid are extremely xenophobic. Janeway soon learns why. When a miner named Nocona contacts Voyager, he insists the asteroid field is his, and recommends that Janeway stay away while he searches for her missing crewmembers.
Neelix learns that 500 Talaxians live in connected tunnels inside the asteroid. To build the underground society, they dismantled the ships that carried them there. The isolated group are anxious to have Neelix and his friends on their way, but when he overhears Nocona threatening the Talaxians with destruction if they don't leave the asteroid, he comes to their defense. Dexa asks whether he will stay and help them fight; Neelix suggests instead letting Captain Janeway try to negotiate with the miners. Though Oxilon doubts anything productive can come from such meetings, he allows Dexa and her son Brax to accompany Neelix to Voyager. There the boy bonds with Naomi Wildman, and Dexa and Neelix share happy memories of Talaxian culture.
The miners insist that they must blast the asteroid where the Talaxians have settled to take its mineral wealth. Janeway offers to take the Talaxians to an M-class planet for resettlement, but all the local systems contain potential threats. Tuvok suggests to Neelix that the Talaxians might be better off staying and defending their current home with shields, but he cannot assist because of the Prime Directive. Instead he suggests that Neelix could lead his people. So Neelix defends the settlement while Oxilon and Dexa install shield emitters. When his little ship's weapons give out, Janeway and Paris use the Flyer to help.
Once the Talaxian shields are operational, the frustrated miners move on to the next asteroid, and Neelix says farewell to Brax and Dexa -- with whom he is falling in love. On Voyager, Naomi Wildman turns down her godfather's offer of a bedtime story, and he begins to feel useless despite the praise Voyager's crew lavished upon him in the presence of the other Talaxians. During a late night meeting in the mess hall, Janeway suggests that Starfleet could use an ambassador in the Delta Quadrant, if Neelix were interested. The entire crew says farewell, and Neelix returns to Brax and Dexa.
Structurally, "Homestead" is a very solid episode, beginning with Tuvok resisting a gratuitous salute and dance for Neelix, ending with the Vulcan offering both as a gesture of farewell. There are nice parallels between Neelix's impulse to be a father to Brax and his changing relationship with Naomi, who's not too old to goof off with the Talaxian boy on the holodeck but isn't interested in bedtime stories. Dexa offers reminders of why the Talaxians left home in the first place after the dreadful actions of Jetrel's people; she has enough in common with Kes that it's easy to see why Neelix would be drawn to her. In terms of series continuity, this is one of Voyager's best episodes, with references to everything from "Tuvix" to First Contact.
Yet watching Neelix walk down Voyager's corridors for the first time, flanked by overwhelmingly human faces, it becomes all too easy to understand why the Talaxian would want to leave the ship to live among his own kind, even if they've chosen to bury themselves deep inside a shielded rock that doesn't seem terribly different from the Ocampa stronghold abandoned by Kes in favor of adventure. It's very sad -- not that Neelix leaves, though I'm sure nostalgic fans may feel otherwise, but that seven years of life on Voyager haven't really made him feel like he belongs there. It's no wonder Torres, Seven and the Doctor feel like outcasts; one wonders whether the Bolian Chell, the Betazoid we saw in "Counterpoint," and the other sole representatives of Alpha Quadrant races suffer just as much. Unlike Deep Space Nine, a thriving interstellar mix of races, cultures and ideologies, Voyager is dominated by Janeway's definition of "home."
Neelix seems aware that the praise Chakotay and Kim lavish on him in front of Dexa is patronizing; only Tuvok's praise, offered in private, really makes an impact. Suddenly, really for the first time, Neelix starts acting like a Starfleet officer, at precisely the moment Janeway believes he plans to break the Prime Directive. It's very odd that she and Tuvok should develop interference qualms about helping the warp-capable Talaxians, after failing to mention Starfleet's highest command during the events of "Natural Law." One has to wonder about their ethics when it comes to taking along Delta Quadrant passengers in the first place. Why would moving the Talaxians to another local planet be considered acceptable, but not helping them defend themselves against a bully?
For that matter, why was it acceptable for Janeway to take Neelix onto her ship in the first place? If Neelix reached the Alpha Quadrant, if he taught people about his culture and traditions, if he married and had children with an Alpha Quadrant native, the results could be as far-reaching as direct interference with the natural order halfway across the galaxy. Neelix's decision to involve himself is a very Kirk-like thing to do, and I'm delighted Janeway manages to rationalize helping him and his people. Interference is sometimes vital for growth, a point seemingly forgotten last week in "Natural Law."
I'm not going to dwell on niggling issues like what's to stop the miners from returning with more powerful explosives, nor the built-in limitations of living in tunnels in an asteroid that could smash into another asteroid any time. And I certainly don't want to think about how in heck the Talaxians managed to travel so far in the time since Talax lost its struggle with the Hakonians, which "Jetrel" led us to believe was within the past decade or so. Those sorts of nitpicks I can live with. If only the finale for the rest of the characters could be as graceful as "Homestead," Voyager would end on a positive note.
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.