Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Voyager’s Crew Begins To Disembark In “Homestead!”

The Good: Interesting character moment, Decent-enough acting
The Bad: Light on plot developments
The Basics: Neelix is thrilled to encounter Talaxians who have established a colony in an asteroid belt, causing him a personal quandary in “Homestead.”

I recall being on the road in the early 2000s on the convention circuit as a dealer and I did a slew of conventions with Robert Picardo and Ethan Philips. Sometimes, at the smaller shows, I was the only dealer outside the convention promoter in the room! So, I got to hear Robert Picardo and Ethan Philips speak at length frequently about their experiences on Star Trek: Voyager. I recall Ethan Philips saying very vociferously that he was never getting into the Neelix make-up ever again. I told a friend of mine that and he shrugged it off and suggested that Philips was probably just angling for a raise should they ever request he appear in one of the Star Trek films. Seeing “Homestead,” though, it is hard to see how Neelix would be integrated into any such future film.

“Homestead” continues the trend begun in “Imperfection” (reviewed here!), which saw the departure of the Borg children. This time, though, Voyager sees a more significant crewmember disembarking the ship for good and it is a bittersweet departure, but not a tragic one.

While celebrating First Contact Day on Voyager (a holiday Neelix and Naomi Wildman have invented), Chakotay detects lifesigns on a nearby asteroid. The lifesigns are Talaxian and finding Talaxians so far from home surprises them all. Neelix eagerly joins Tuvok and Paris on the Delta Flyer to go investigate the asteroid, but the small ship is shot down by mining charges from another race. Inside the asteroid, Neelix is rescued by the Talaxian colonists, but is segregated from the other two. While Janeway communicates with the race that is mining the asteroid field, Neelix meets with the young son of one of the Talaxians, Brax.

Brax reminds Neelix of himself at a young age and he tries to keep the boy from getting into trouble with his mother, Dexa, whom he is attracted to. Neelix quickly becomes embroiled in the conflict between the Talaxian colonists and the miners and he helps them take a stand against the miners, who are evicting the Talaxians from their asteroid colony. In standing with the Talaxians, Neelix begins to feel a kinship for his people that tugs at him to stay with the Talaxian colony.

Neelix is a character who had an interesting amount of potential at the outset of Star Trek: Voyager, but the writers lost focus with for a large part of the series. In the third season, Neelix lost his initial ship function in “Fair Trade” (reviewed here!) and he became an “Ambassador” for Voyager, which was a role he erratically served in. More often than not, he was simply a babysitter for Naomi Wildman and the ship’s cook. Even so, there were several episodes of the series which used Neelix to present a deeper theme and really stretched Ethan Philips as an actor. Those anomalous episodes presented a very human side of Neelix, but did not so much utilize the character in a way that illustrated his function on the ship.

“Homestead” explores Neelix as a Talaxian and gives the characters on Voyager a chance to show their appreciation for the role he has played up until now and it redirects the character in a way that is surprisingly satisfying. The character conflict in “Homestead” is primarily an internal conflict for a character who is far from home and who gets the chance to be among his people. There is a romantic subplot which is developed as well as one can in a single forty-three minute episode.

Ethan Philips and guest star Julianne Christie (Dexa) have decent on-screen chemistry and their relationship in the episode is presented as plausible enough. Christie is able to emote quite a bit beneath her make-up and that sells the brief relationship her character and Philips’s have. But the real moment of chemistry and acting prowess comes in a brief scene between Tuvok and Neelix. In that scene, Tim Russ presents Tuvok in a way that clearly illustrates his character cares about Neelix. Knowing how little Russ and Philips actually enjoyed each other on-set, that Russ could portray a soft spot for Neelix, the moment that is essentially their “good-bye” is very satisfying for fans of the series.

“Homestead” is a good episode for the fans, but it is not an episode where much happens at all. Instead, it is a chance for the fans to have an emotionally satisfying sense of closure for one of the more likable, but unnecessary characters for the final arc of the show. Very little happens in “Homestead,” save Neelix rising to become the soldier he never was on Tellax the write-off of the character is good, but not extraordinary, and it is virtually meaningless to anyone who is not already invested in the character of Neelix and his journey on Star Trek: Voyager.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the final season here!

For other works with Rob LaBelle, please visit my reviews of:
Hot Tub Time Machine
“Mr. Monk And The Candidate” - Monk
“False Profits” - Star Trek: Voyager
“Faces” - Star Trek: Voyager


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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