[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Homestead"
- Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's
"Homestead." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.
In brief: Not groundbreaking, but nice.
Plot description: Neelix finds he must make hard choices when he becomes
involved in the struggle of Talaxian refugees whose home in an asteroid
belt is threatened by alien miners.
Star Trek: Voyager -- "Homestead"
Airdate: 5/9/2001 (USA)
Written by Raf Green
Directed by LeVar Burton
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: ***
"I've never seen First Contact Day celebrated quite like this. When I was
your age, all it meant was a day off from school." -- Janeway to Naomi
Neelix is a supporting character for whom the writers have never found an
adequate purpose. For seven seasons he has floated here and there with a
myriad of alleged duties but no real direction or strong motivations.
Ethan Phillips has essentially been assigned the role of "miscellaneous
character." So it's fitting, I guess, that the episode that bids Neelix
adieu is one that makes the effort to show him as a Voyager crew member
facing a crisis of purpose. The fact that there's a scene where Naomi
Wildman tells Neelix she's too old to be tucked into bed only reinforces
The prospect of uselessness is a frightening thing, something demonstrated
several years ago in a previous Neelix story, "Fair Trade." It's trite but
true that most of us need to feel needed. Many who ponder the value of
their lives probably hope that they have made or will make a difference to
others -- the greater the better.
"Homestead" takes that notion to write the final chapter for Neelix, one
that is not hugely original or groundbreaking, but is pleasant and sincere
nonetheless. The plot is more or less routine, but the characters are
here, and the writers and actors do well for making us care about Neelix's
struggles and choices.
As another example in a long history of spatial geography tricks with
little regard for logic, the Voyager crew happens upon a colony of
Talaxian refugees living inside an asteroid in an asteroid belt. How did
they get here from their homeworld, roughly 40,000 light-years across the
Delta Quadrant, in apparently only a decade or two? I don't know, and
asking such a question is simply a hollow, obligatory gesture at this
point. Perhaps they were as lucky as Voyager has been in finding
shortcuts. Luckier still that Voyager happened upon them.
Neelix finds that being around his people rekindles feelings of home. One
could argue that over the years Neelix would've come to think of Voyager
as his home, but perhaps it's not that simple. Maybe he sees himself more
as a traveler with a still-unknown destination. With the ostensive
destination being Earth -- a planet he's never seen -- his own people can
certainly be a strong reminder of his previous home.
The overriding plot is a relatively hoary exercise in which one group of
people are threatened by another, more unreasonable group. In this case
the asteroid belt is going to be mined by the aliens who own it. They
don't intend to let something silly like a Talaxian homestead stand in the
way of profits and efficiency schedules. The Talaxian asteroid is the
proverbial house that needs to be razed in order for the proverbial new
highway to go through -- although not really, since it stands to reason
that the miners could simply move on and skip this one measly asteroid.
Honestly, the miners might as well be wearing horns and carrying
pitchforks; they growl and intimidate, even going so far as to threaten a
little boy. Even their makeup design is sinister. Subtlety is not a virtue
to be found here.
What works is the gradual way Neelix realizes that he must help the
Talaxians protect their home. These Talaxians are primarily pacifists, but
Neelix argues that their home is something worth taking a stand for, and
tries to convince the passive leader, Oxilon (Rob Labelle), that running
to find a new home isn't plausible forever; they've already been pushed
off at least one world entirely.
Neelix's choices are in no small part affected by his emerging feelings
for a widow named Dexa (Julianne Christie) and her young son, Brax (Ian
Meltzer). Their scenes are handled with a quiet sincerity that works. But
what I found more interesting were some of Neelix's interactions with the
Voyager crew in the midst of the unfolding dilemma. There's a scene where
Neelix tells Brax that his duties aren't of huge importance (and I'm
inclined to agree based on evidence the series has provided), but Chakotay
and Kim come to the rescue and explain Neelix's various titles and cite
him as a valuable crew member.
Better still are the Tuvok/Neelix scenes. Tuvok/Neelix sequences have
often been utter failures; even this year we had a stupid roommate-quarrel
plot in "Prophecy," while other relatively recent episodes like "Riddles"
have shown Tuvok begrudging every possible warm feeling about Neelix that
might rear its head in the depths of his Vulcan heart. But here we have
what should've happened a long time ago -- a vocal acknowledgement from
Tuvok about Neelix's strengths and resourcefulness as a potential leader,
even though they might exist alongside other annoying qualities. It's
perfectly worded from Tuvok, and I can't tell you how refreshing it is to
see him be believably civil toward Neelix instead of needlessly cold as
forced upon him by a script. Similarly, it's also nice to see Neelix
acting like a real person instead of a comic annoyance who, for example,
trashes Tuvok's quarters while in the throes of Klingon passion.
There's a sequence where Neelix uses his cargo ship to help install shield
generators to protect the Talaxian asteroid from the alien miners. This is
serviceable action storytelling, though I think the way the episode
invokes the Prime Directive is erroneous: If a warp-capable group of
people asks for help in defending themselves, I don't see how that's a
Prime Directive issue saying Janeway can't be involved. Yes, she may be
taking sides in an interstellar conflict, but that happens every day.
Ultimately, Neelix decides to stay behind with the Talaxians and start a
new home when Janeway submits that perhaps this opportunity for him will
also allow him to remain as an official Delta Quadrant-based ambassador
for Starfleet. This is neat and tidy, perhaps, but it's certainly
reasonable and allows a good send-off.
"Homestead" is not a great or inspired episode of Voyager, but it is a
dignified and heartfelt one. I must admit: By the end, when Tuvok's
goodbye consisted of a restrained, Tuvokian concession to dance with the
heel of one foot, I was touched. The scene keeps dialog to a minimum and
relies on nods and glances, providing a great example of less-is-more
mentality. It's one moment that almost makes up for years of redundant
banter. If dignity has been a lost virtue for Neelix as the writers have
previously written him, they managed to find it here.
In brief: Doc engages in a serious role-playing game.
Copyright 2001 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...