The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Elogium

When Voyager starts investigating a swam of spaceborne creatures, they trigger an odd reaction in Kes. Eventually, she realises the cause of her odd symptoms – she has entered elogium, the time in an Ocampa’s life when they become fertile and able to conceive a child. Although it is unheard of for an Ocampa to enter the elogium so early in their life, if Kes doesn’t choose to procreate now, she may never get another chance.

The quartet of episodes held over from season one concludes here, with yet another pedestrian story that is neither particularly bad nor especially good. Procreation is a subject looming on the horizon for Voyager, and with a 75 year journey looming ahead of them, it may even be necessary, lest the existing crew all die of old age before they get home. That being said, Voyager isn’t the Enterprise-D with its family-friendly facilities, and raising a child aboard the ship isn’t the greatest of prospects.

But these are the more general concerns – this episode gets things up close and personal, as Kes and Neelix have mere days to decide whether they should conceive a child. Both have doubts, and ultimately decide not to, but having introduced the ‘you only get one chance’ idea as a form of jeopardy, it turns out that this probably wasn’t the real elogium, and that everything will be fine. I guess I don’t mind that so much, especially as I know it’ll never happen.

The Good

  • When Neelix says that he has lots to teach a son and nothing to teach a daughter, Tuvok points out that he could teach his child the same things regardless of their gender. Smash the patriarchy, Tuvok!

The Bad

  • Ocampa sex looks really tedious. Six days stuck to someone’s hand to ensure conception – how does that even work? How are Neelix’s gametes going to enter Kes’ body? Sure, we don’t even know what Talaxian genitals look like (and thank god for that), but say Kes procreated with a human (as her future self does in Before and After), how would it work? Does future Kes grip Tom’s penis with her hands for six days to ensure she gets some spunk?
  • Neelix is particularly annoying here, first getting angry with Kes because he’s jealous of her friendship with Paris, and then constantly getting in the Doctor’s way whilst he’s trying to work. He even shows scant regard for the Doctor’s status as a sentient being, considering him ‘just’ a hologram.
  • Who even cares about the spaceborne creatures as a storyline?

Ocampa Factbox

Between the ages of four and five, the Ocampa enter the elogium, the only time in their life when they can conceive a child. Prior to conception, there is a ritual in which the parent of the mother-to-be massages their feet until their tongue swells – presumably a sort of ritualised foreplay to get them in the mood for sex. They then bond to their partner with the palm of their hands for up to six days in order to ensure conception. The child grows in a sac on the mother’s back.

If we assume that Ocampa have distinct males and females, and that only females can conceive, then the fact that an Ocampa female can only get pregnant once is problematic. Unless females bear two or more children per pregnancy (which is not the case for Kes or her daughter in Before and After), then each generation can only have as many individuals as there are females in the parent generation. Even if there is just one man to fertilise all the females (which is not the impression we get from Caretaker, Cold Fire or any references to Ocampa society in other episodes), the population will still decrease over time.

Of course, it may be possible that Ocampa have both male and female sex organs, and can both fertilise and be fertilised. Hence one Ocampa’s father might be another Ocampa’s mother. This would slow the population decline, but assuming that not everyone wants to procreate, or that some individuals die before they can procreate, it does not stop it completely. Basically, this isn’t the kind of reproductive strategy that lets a species flourish and proliferate.

All that being said, we might also be able to lay some blame at the door of the Caretaker and his people. We already know that the Caretaker-race have drastically changed Ocampa society in various ways, and perhaps damaging their reproductive abilities is one of them.

Other points

  • After over six months in the Delta Quadrant (as per last episode), Ensign Wildman has only just realised that she’s pregnant. We can only assume that the fact that her baby’s, father is Ktarian made the timings of the gestation different to that of a normal human pregnancy.
  • Even if Voyager started breeding replacement crew to finish the journey home (which I already find unsettling, as I’m no fan of mandated breeding programs outside of livestock-related situations), why would those children have any motivation to go back to the Alpha Quadrant? I guess they might be affected by their parents’ enthusiasm but at the same time, the Delta Quadrant will be the only life they’ve ever known. They may well want to stay and settle down somewhere, or just live in space, travelling endlessly onward.
  • It feels odd to me that the usually laid-back Chakotay is more concerned about inappropriate fraternisation with the crew than the more uptight and formal Janeway.
  • The crew refer to the bigger creature as being the male. It seems more likely to me that the large one would be the ‘female’, in that it would get fertilised by many of the smaller ones, and gestate their offspring in its massive body, like a queen bee.

Destroyed shuttlecraft running total: 1

Summary – Elogium: In which we are only narrowly saved from the prospect of having Neelix Junior running around the ship.

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