In the twentieth episode of the second season ofÂ Voyager, never has being wrong been so much fun. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watchÂ Star Trek.Â
Well, I got that so wrong that I canâ€™t even bother trying to make a defense of it. I suppose thatâ€™s the point, though. I wasÂ meantÂ to think that something was off with Tom Paris, that his exit was sudden and jarring, and that EVERYTHING HAD GONE OFF THE RAILS. And yet,Â VoyagerÂ finds a way to make the bizarre subplot of â€œLifesignsâ€ into something meaningful and touching.
Which means I need to start with Neelix. I was so certain that I knew where this episode was going due to that cold open. And look, I donâ€™t think I wasÂ thatÂ far off in insisting that Harryâ€™s journalistic advice to Neelix could have been taken in a terrible, terrible direction. I half expected this episode to turn into the wacky capers of an alien who doesnâ€™t understand the ethics of journalism! Instead, through Neelixâ€™s (frankly) charming daily videos to the crew, we get one of the COOLEST stories in all of season two.
You simply canâ€™t divorce Neelix from this episode, either. For the first time in the whole series, I got a sense for his role as the Morale Officer. Itâ€™s always seemed like a sly joke more than anything else. However, he takes it seriously, and this episode helped me understand it. His daily reports are sincere and meaningful, even before Harry suggests that he add more substance to his videos. And knowing what a long journey theyâ€™ve all got before them, I find the very idea of highlighting individual crew members and their acts to be one of the more necessary things someone has come up with in order to help keep the crew feeling like theyâ€™re a family.
So when Tom leavesÂ VoyagerÂ to pursue a life elsewhere, Neelix uses his reports to do something amazing. Maybe it was too little, too late, but he couldnâ€™t have known that. When Tom leaves, though, Neelix reminds the entire crew how meaningful he was as a part of the team. Itâ€™s that kind of sincerity that makes this story so goddamn touching. Throughout â€œInvestigations,â€ NeelixÂ genuinelyÂ wants the best. He wants Tom to come back, and then he wants to believe that TomÂ willÂ come back. When he suspects thereâ€™s a spy onÂ Voyager, he diligently does his best to find out who that might be. Now, heâ€™s notÂ theÂ best investigator, but heÂ triesÂ his best, and that matters. Itâ€™s actually kind of adorable to see him just not get that Michael Jonas, the spy, is LITERALLY THE PERSON HELPING HIM, but Neelix is so determined to speak to everyone in good faith.
I donâ€™t believe Michael has the best arc on the show; his story made a lot more sense whenÂ VoyagerÂ might have been stuck in the Delta Quadrant. Itâ€™s not my favorite part of â€œInvestigations,â€ but hey! At least his existence gave me the wonderful con of Tom Paris being a total jackass in order to out a spy. Can we also acknowledge how hilarious it is that Tom was able to believably be a jerk with very little effort? Iâ€™M JUST SAYING.
For what itâ€™s worth, though, this episode becomes one hell of an action flick in its final act, and itâ€™s a lot of fun. We donâ€™t often get to see Neelix duke it out with someone, and coupled with Tomâ€™s escape, itâ€™s a beautiful sequence. But a good action scene means nothing if there isnâ€™t a reason to care about everyone involved. The final Neelix report at the end of â€œInvestigationsâ€ is a perfect reminder that at one point, Neelix and Tom despised each other. Not only that, but you couldnâ€™t have forced them to care about the other one. And now, their friendship makesÂ sense. It doesnâ€™t feel forced or like an opportunity. Itâ€™s real! Yes, the plot twists make this a delightful episode, but seeing Tom and Neelix find friendship in one another is somehow all the more rewarding.
The video for â€œInvestigationsâ€ can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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