"Elogium" is an episode that looks at relationships and procreation in three ways: Kes goes through puberty and considers whether she wants to become a mother, Voyager encounters a swarm of space-dwelling aliens who think the ship is a potential mate, and Janeway has to consider the ramifications of her crew hooking up and producing kids.
The latter is driven by Chakotay’s report about running into two frisky crew members making out in a turbolift, and while it’s a minor part of the overall plot it says a lot about what kind of relationships are considered “normal”.
Chakotay: (lowering his voice) This morning I interrupted a couple who were kissing in the turbolift, and I’ve been wondering if we should establish a policy regarding fraternization.
Janeway: Well, the couple in question might be urged to show a bit more discretion, but Starfleet has always been reluctant to regulate peoples’ personal lives.
Chakotay: Of course. But we’re in a unique situation here. The development of intimate relationships might cause us problems that wouldn’t arise on other ships.
Janeway: I understand what you’re saying but, we’re a long way from home. Everyone is lonely, and all we have is each other. I think eventually people will begin to pair off.
The key phrase here is “pair off” and I’d argue the subtext, along with the fact we never see gay characters on Voyager, presumes that the rest of the crew will naturally settle into monogamous heterosexuality.
This analysis nails the issues I had with this episode, especially the Kes/Neelix stuff, but also the heteronormative assumptions Janeway and Chakotay make about the crew “pairing off”. It’s baffling to me that Voyager manages to be the most progressive Trek in some ways, while being more backward on issues of human sexuality than either DS9 or TNG. Hell, I know there’s at least one Bolian on board, and they are canonically polygamous!
This is the episode that really pushed my dislike of Neelix into a powerful antipathy. I can understand why some people stopped watching the show because of his character. His anger at Kes (his claims that he is angry at Paris don’t change the fact that he is yelling at Kes) makes me flinch. And oh my god, any time Kes ends up in the infirmary, Neelix is the worst! The difference between how he behaves when Kes is injured in any way and how any other member of the crew behaves when one of their number, even one they care deeply for (Janeway and Tuvok, Chakotay and B’Elanna), is really telling. She is like a precious THING that he can’t trust with anyone else. It only serves to underscore that whatever her biological or relative age, Neelix thinks of her as a child, and that’s creepy enough.
And I was seriously bothered when Janeway says “Oh you’re going through puberty!” and in no way makes the connection to how creepy that makes Neelix. Does she just think that’s how things are done in the Delta Quadrant? Hell with the Prime Directive, Janeway, transport him into SPACE.
Can I just say, though, that in addition to the great character moments Kes has, and Tuvok’s parenting speech, I really enjoyed the weird alien biology of Kes’s pregnancy. Scummy yellow hands, alien baby sack, just all of it, even the eating. Pregnancy cravings are a cliche, but six bowls of mashed potatoes with butter and DIRT? And the beetle-eating scene is one of those great Voyager moments that makes me wonder what Italian horror director most influenced the feel of the show. So delightfully gross.
Thanks for writing this, it’s completely spot on. And how about how easily Voyager passes the Bechdel Test, huh? It’s almost like if you write enough important women into a show, that problem basically solves itself.