i've heard and read a lot of rumors concerning the direction of voyager, but this is the first i've heard of that rumor, that they were thinking of bringing voyager back to the AQ/BQ to deal with romulans and klingons during the later seasons. can you elaborate?
It was something Ron Moore said in his long rant after leaving Voyager, if I remember correctly. I can't find the interview now since the website it was originally on no longer exists and I can't find the mirror of it which was posted in the BSG forum some months back. What he said was that he had discussions with some of the writers on Voyager where they were suggesting that the ship should arrive back in the AQ and turn the show into a TNG style show, but he told them how he felt that it was a bad idea since it would be like admitting defeat. Clearly he didn't have much of an impact on the direction of the show and the show's producers made the decision to stay in the DQ without his influence, but there was some discussion on the matter.
does this same sort of grading system get retroactively applied to TNG or DS9?
Yes. I already said that I disliked TNG's first two seasons because they were trying too much to be like TOS and TNG only came into its own when they started focusing more on character based stories. DS9 was poor in its first season because it was trying to be like TNG with episodic stories that could easily have been done on TNG. It started moving away from those in season 2 and by the end of the show there was only a handful of episodes which could have been done on TNG.
Story: Tom and Neelix crash on a planet and are forced to get past their hatred of one another in order to raise a baby puppet. Co-starring Tom Selleck.
When an episode has that as an outline it deserves some credit if it manage not to completely suck, and this episode managed not to completely suck. In fact most of this episode works until they find their way into the same cave that every planet in the history of Star Trek has.
One thing in this episode which bothers me is Janeway who sends Tom and Neelix on a potentially dangerous mission together even though she knows they are getting into fights with one another. She just says "solve it" in a slightly sadistic tone of voice. She made a potentially dangerous situation worse with little regard for her crew, the least she should have done was send Chakotay along with them to make sure their bickering doesn't get out of hand.
Lets not talk about the puppet and how reptiles are cold-blooded and therefore should not shiver.
There is some good character work done with Paris and Neelix, although I do wish that they just parted company at the end rather than Neelix inviting Tom around for a little al-key-hol. When another man is in love with your girlfriend you shouldn't force him to spend time around her, it will just be awkward for all involved.
There was a food crisis in this episode which wasn't resolved so if the next episode doesn't mention that fact and resolve the issue then it will lose half a star for bad continuity.
Shuttle crashes: 3