In the episodes leading up to “Parturition”, we saw episodes in which Neelix was starting to get annoyingly possessive of Kes (will get to a couple of those later). According to Memory Alpha, “Parturition” was meant to address that tension, get Neelix to relax, and give Paris some more screen time.
The result is a comedic episode with great lead performances and some pretty witty dialogue to appreciate, if you can overlook the plot cliches and outdated depictions of gender roles in relationships. We start with Paris giving Kes a flight lesson in a holodeck shuttle simulator. They’re bumping around as Kes struggles to stabilize the controls. She finally does and then, out of nowhere, another bump happens and – surprise, surprise! – she’s flung into Paris’ arms.
After an awkward, romantic tension-laden pause, they resume the lesson. When they finish, they exit the holodeck, laughing. Neelix watches jealously from down the corridor. A bit later, Paris drops in on Kim, who’s practicing his clarinet.
Paris: I think I’m in love.
Kim: What’s new?
Paris: With Kes.
Paris: I know. I know. I never even saw it coming. I thought we were just good buddies. But there she was in my arms.
Kim: In your arms? Paris, you didn’t.
Paris: What? Oh, no. I didn’t. I wouldn’t. She stumbled during a flight simulation. I caught her. I held her for an instant…A whole crew full of women and I have to fall for the one I can’t have. Why do I do this to my self?
Paris’ solution, because Kes is somehow Neelix’s property or something, is to try his best to avoid being around her. However, he doesn’t plan to avoid being around Neelix, whom he unfortunately runs into when he goes to the mess hall.
Neelix gets so jealous when he sees Paris acting awkwardly (he’s trying to avoid sitting with Kes), that he starts a food fight and the two end up rolling on the ground, grappling with each other until they’re conveniently hailed by Captain Janeway. This part is pretty funny even though the whole guys fighting over a lady thing should be so done by the 24th century.
Janeway has a mission for both of them: they’re to take a shuttle down to a planet they’ve recently discovered to try to collect food supplies. She needs Paris especially because the atmosphere is full of electromagnetic disturbances. They’ll also have to use an “osmotic skin sealant” whipped up by the Doctor so they aren’t harmed by the harsh atmosphere.
Kes hears about the fight and confides in the Doctor about how angry she is (Kes’ totally valid reactions somewhat redeem the stupid episode premise).
This is my favourite exchange. I laughed out loud.
Kes: Neelix and Tom Paris had a physical fight over me.
Doctor: How delightful.
Doctor: You should consider it a high compliment. Throughout history, men have fought over the love of a woman. Why, I can quote you autopsy reports from duels as far back as 1538.
Kes: That’s not funny.
Doctor: It’s not meant to be. You’ve always been interested in autopsies.
The only disappointing thing is that Kes is still interested in the Doctor’s advice, even though he is clearly not the person I’d want to go to in this situation. He continues to be more than a little patronizing, saying Paris is clearly into her but because she’s young, “There may be a few things you don’t know to look for in a man. In time, you’ll understand.”
Most of Neelix and Paris’ shuttle ride down to “Planet Hell” is silent, filled only with tense, necessary conversation. Then the shuttle begins to hit turbulence and Paris is forced to make an emergency landing.
After a bumpy landing, their hull is leaking, so Paris orders them out to find food and shelter away from the vapors in the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, up on the ship Kes goes to talk to Harry (this is a step up from the Doctor, for sure). She’s almost crying, feeling guilty that she was so angry and now Tom and Neelix might both be dead.
Kim: I’m sure they’ll both be fine.
Kes: Unless they kill each other.
Kim: They’re professionals.
Kes: Oh, they’d better be all right, because when I see them, I’m personally going to tell them that I never intend to speak to either one of them again.
Now in a cave, Neelix and Paris discover unexpected life signs. When they investigate, they find a nest of eggs. One is just about to hatch and when it does, out comes a goo-covered baby dinosaur-like alien with slightly creepy eyes. Neelix wants to stay and take care of it but Paris isn’t so sure.
Neelix convinces him they can’t abandon a newborn and Paris gives in, saying Neelix can be its godfather. Neelix sees it’s shivering and picks it up and swaddles it in his jacket.
Because that kind of basic caring instinct is apparently something inherently feminine, Paris jokes: “Forget what I said, Neelix: you’re not its godfather, you’re its godmother.”
With teamwork, they figure out the alien baby needs to be outside in the harsh atmosphere in order to survive. They have to unseal the entrance to the cave and go back out. Through this time they confide little things to each other about their life before Voyager, helping to further erode their anger at each other.
Outside, they finally address the elephant in the room, because their view of the situation is more important than Kes’ feelings in the matter:
What we learned from this episode:
- If you’re a guy who likes a girl who’s seeing another guy, you are honour-bound not pursue her, or even talk to her about it, because the other guy got there first.
- Even if you’re really mad at someone, you can re-connect over solving a problem together
- Voyager seriously could’ve used a ship’s counsellor
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. Janeway and B’Elanna geek out.
Paris: Neelix, I told you the truth when I said that nothing happened between me and Kes.
Neelix: I know.
Paris: And I promise you nothing ever will. But you weren’t wrong about me.
Neelix: What do you mean?
Paris: I, well, I guess the only way to say it is to say it. I am attracted to Kes…To be honest, if you weren’t around, I’d be knocking at her door. But I respect you, Neelix. And that’s that. Everything you heard those guys saying about me, well, it was true. But it’s not who I am anymore. At least not who I want to be. This upside down mission to the wrong side of the galaxy has given me a second chance, and I don’t intend to blow it.
Neelix: I see. Well, in a way I can’t say I blame you. She is very attractive.
Paris: She’s devoted to you, you know.
Neelix: Well, I did save her life. I’m sure she’s grateful.
Paris: Oh, she’s a lot more than grateful. She loves you, Neelix. I wouldn’t stand a chance. Nobody would.
They finally hear from Voyager, which is being attacked by a ship of the alien babies’ parents. After staying briefly to make sure the mother accepts the infant Paris and Neelix have looked after, they are beamed back and take off.
Kes meets them in the transporter room and doesn’t get a chance to give them a piece of her mind. Seems she was more angry that her lover and friend were fighting than she was that two dudes were leaving her out of a discussion about her own relationship. Now she’s pretty much okay because they’re friends.