Airdate: April 8, 1996
37 of 168 produced
37 of 168 aired
Tuvok crash lands on an alien moon, and finds himself unexpectedly in charge of three alien children. Meanwhile, Janeway must negotiate with a reclusive race for a vital ship component.
The Vulcan parental dirty look.
Kevin: This is not a bad episode, but it's not a good one either. The idea is just too cute by half. The twist feels forced, and as a result doesn't make sense. Do these people really give birth to fully grown old people or something? I get the idea of senility being a kind of second childhood, but the idea that it would manifest as looking like an actually child is a bit of a bridge too far. How did this even evolve? Also, I've never really bought any alien whose bodies "converts into energy" at death. It's just too neat a plot contrivance. Tack on the standard "We can't use the transporter because reasons" trope and it's pretty tired overall. The real problem beyond that is that a twist was actually unnecessary. The scenes of Tuvok dealing with the children are actually pretty good. He pitched suppressed irritation pretty well, and we've said before that when it comes to Tuvok's family, it's always a treat to watch, so watching him play parent, presumably after some years of not being a parent was pretty fun.
Matthew: Well, it mentioned Plato. So the soul energy plot had that going for it. But yeah, reverse aging, at least as shown on screen, really strains credulity beyond the breaking point. If the story had gone further in showing that the children were actually debilitated, or had some sort of memory loss, that would have helped a lot. I could buy a race that starts and ends as children, if there were more outward signs of the decline in the final stage.
Kevin: The half-assed attempt at a Prime Directive story was also extraneous and it took us away from the only possible interest of the story. The Prime Directive says crew are expendable in the name of not violating the Prime Directive, so on the one hand, that would seem to tie Janeway's hands, but this seems less like interfering with a pre-warp civilization and more just breaking their rules to save a crewmember, but the attempts at diplomacy were pretty bland to watch, and it even pulls in yet another of our least favorite recurring plot points, the need for mineral X. The Doctor's awkwardness in Sickbay was pretty funny though.
Matthew: See, actually, I liked the idea of dealing with a culture that has eschewed technology. I found the introductory scenes between the Captain and Alcia to be pretty engaging. Star Trek has tried a few times before this to show us an alien race that is just very different in priority to, let's just admit it, the Western Civilization stand-ins that the Federation represents. I would have liked to see more about what intentionally regressing your society technologically means. Maybe they could have tied the childhood regression theme in to this? Perhaps their medicine had cured it, but now that they are in this mode, it has returned. Or perhaps the second childhood thing was a side effect of medical technology (e.g. stem cell research) run amok. This story was an edit or two away from really being cohesive.
Kevin: I think the episode would have been better served to leave the diplomacy part out of it, and just focus on Tuvok and the kids, and really focused on that story. Maybe throw in a flashback to his own family, or establish that at least one or two of his children are young, at least in Vulcan terms, and that caring for these children drives home what he is missing out on. Freed from the need to create tension with bizarro life cycles and lazy diplomatic crises, watching Tuvok navigate something you would think his Vulcan disposition would make him bad at, but his parenting experience would make him good at, should be enough to sustain the episode. I wasn't the biggest fan of the singing, I'll admit. It's not that Russ couldn't do it, I just have this reflex thing about Sci-fi/fantasy attempts at original songs. I've read LOTR several times, and my eyes still glide over any extended passages of singing.
Matthew: I agree that we should have seen more about Vulcan child rearing. I also agree that the sing could have been dispensed with - just as a story it would have been more tolerable. Thankfully, it only lasted for about 20 seconds - which is an unbelievably short time to get 3 kids to sleep if you ask me. How could Tuvok have doubts about the katra when it has been incontrovertibly demonstrated several times prior to his statement?
Kevin: This is certainly the highlight of the episode. Russ does a good job showing/not showing frustration, and I liked all the child actors. They hit the right balance to be neither annoying, flat, or preternaturally adult. They acted like kids, which is a pretty rare compliment for child actors in general and child actors on Star Trek in particular.
Matthew: Yeah, as pointless as the kid story ended up being, the kids were not those painfully precocious "god I want to punch them in the face" sort of actors that derail shows. The best Tim Russ note was when he pointed at the whining kid. I love that. I already use that in real life.
Kevin: Ship-side, everyone in the main cast was exactly as okay as the script needed them to be. I like Marine McPhail as Alcia more than I think I should. I wish I could have seen her face and that she had something more interesting to do than be negative the whole time. She had some energy in her scenes and I wish it had been better utilized.
Matthew: McPhail was really good and I wanted 10 or 20 more minutes of her in this story. It indicates the sort of nerd I am that I correctly identified her as the chick who bought it in "First Contact" because of her crinkly forehead.
Kevin: This was a weak episode production-wise, no two ways about it. First, it's not the worst jungle in the history of Trek. That may just be "Shades of Gray," but it was still painfully a soundstage. I also did not like the mesh veils on the Drayans, they just didn't work. It obscured the actors' faces and not in a good way. It's definitely one of those costuming decisions that reads better on paper than in practice.
Matthew: I think perhaps the veils could have been explained in story, or taken off at some point, or something. I agree for the most part that they just got annoying. The Drayan ship was a re-use from several other Trek stories.
Kevin: I think Russ' acting alone keeps a one squarely off the table. I also think it's not enough, alone, to raise this to a three, and that's pretty much the only unabashed bright spot the episode has. He's a good actor, and he poured a lot of energy and warmth into his role as a father figure, and it could have been a highlight of the season if it had been in service to a better script. I am going with a 2.
Matthew: Yep. I agree with the 2 for a total of 4. The second childhood plot was just too underbaked to be enjoyable. Coupled with the Plot Interruptus on the cultural end of things, it just fell flat.