In the twentieth episode of the second season of Voyager, never has being wrong been so much fun. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Well, I got that so wrong that I can’t even bother trying to make a defense of it. I suppose that’s the point, though. I was meant 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, Voyager finds a way to make the bizarre subplot of “Lifesigns” 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 don’t think I was that far off in insisting that Harry’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 doesn’t understand the ethics of journalism! Instead, through Neelix’s (frankly) charming daily videos to the crew, we get one of the COOLEST stories in all of season two.
You simply can’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. It’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 they’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 they’re a family.
So when Tom leaves Voyager to pursue a life elsewhere, Neelix uses his reports to do something amazing. Maybe it was too little, too late, but he couldn’t have known that. When Tom leaves, though, Neelix reminds the entire crew how meaningful he was as a part of the team. It’s that kind of sincerity that makes this story so goddamn touching. Throughout “Investigations,” Neelix genuinely wants the best. He wants Tom to come back, and then he wants to believe that Tom will come back. When he suspects there’s a spy on Voyager, he diligently does his best to find out who that might be. Now, he’s not the best investigator, but he tries his best, and that matters. It’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 don’t believe Michael has the best arc on the show; his story made a lot more sense when Voyager might have been stuck in the Delta Quadrant. It’s not my favorite part of “Investigations,” 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? I’M JUST SAYING.
For what it’s worth, though, this episode becomes one hell of an action flick in its final act, and it’s a lot of fun. We don’t often get to see Neelix duke it out with someone, and coupled with Tom’s escape, it’s a beautiful sequence. But a good action scene means nothing if there isn’t a reason to care about everyone involved. The final Neelix report at the end of “Investigations” is a perfect reminder that at one point, Neelix and Tom despised each other. Not only that, but you couldn’t have forced them to care about the other one. And now, their friendship makes sense. It doesn’t feel forced or like an opportunity. It’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 “Investigations” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon! There are various levels of support, from $1 up to whatever you want! You’ll get to read a private blog, extra reviews, and other such rewards.
– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches have been announced here.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!