Voyager rewatch: 1.05 – “Phage”

A Voyager episode with no temporal anomalies whatsoever?

Weird.

The early seasons of Voyager had two main recurring villains: the fractious, misogynistic Kazon — who were inspired by African American gangs, which is Unfortunate — and the tragic and extremely gross Vidiians, who we meet this week.

The Vidiians are by far the more interesting and less racist concept, but unfortunately, they’re introduced … in a Neelix episode.

Oh no

Now, I am very fond of Neelix, but these early episodes always leave me wondering why. (Answer: because everyone else hated him, and I am quite contrary.)

He starts out here just okay — yes, he’s commandeered Janeway’s private dining room as a kitchen, but it’s practical and slightly amusing, and the crew need something other than ration packs to supplement their limited replicator resources.

But then he ignores Chakotay’s instructions on his very first away mission (Rule One: Don’t Wander Off) and gets his lungs stolen. Which isn’t precisely his fault, I don’t wanna blame the victim of a lung theft here. But, you know…

Toxic Talaxian masculinity ruins the party again

Neelix sees Tom and Kes interacting and manages to go from zero to douchebag in thirty seconds. Which is impressive for a guy who doesn’t even have lungs!

He describes Tom as “one big hormone walking around the ship”, which is faintly amusing, but not entirely fair, and accuses Tom of making moves on Kes, which is entirely unfair. We’ve seen Tom being a sleaze, but that’s not how he was interacting with Kes. He was just being kind.

Neelix’s reaction would be gross in any situation, but it makes everything that follows — his fear that he’ll spend the rest of his life immobile on a biobed, his reasonable desire to have his surroundings made more pleasing — seem petulant and unreasonable.

Star Trek: The Search for Neelix’s Lungs

For Reasons, ie, Neelix’s weird alien physiology, they can’t just transplant a lung from someone else, they need to get the originals back. What follows is a pursuit of the Vidiian ship, which is clever but … bloodless. Not literally — okay, literally, too — but we don’t get much character stuff until the Vidiians are finally cornered.

Then, finally, we see Janeway get angry. And sad, because Neelix’s lungs are already in use, and if she orders the recipient to give them up, she’s condemning that guy to death. And she can’t do that.

(She will make the opposite choice in season 2’s “Tuvix”, but it’s difficult to pretend that was a deliberate decision resulting from character development; I’m honestly not sure the writers of “Tuvix” ever actually understood the moral subtext of that choice. I mostly pretend it never happened.)

Kate Mulgrew pulls out all the stops with a speech that verges on Picard-esque — except Picard’s big speeches rarely ended with threats. The Vidiians get Neelix’s lungs as a freebie, but if they value their lives — and they really do — they should steer clear of Voyager in the future.

(Spoilers: they won’t.)

Luckily, Vidiian medical technology is far more advanced than the Federation’s, and their doctor/professional lung thief is able to do the transplant.

Kes donates a lung, which, after the way Neelix has been behaving, really is going above and beyond.

A complete list of men on Voyager who deserve a lung

  1. Tuvok
  2. Harry Kim
  3. Ayala, I dunno why, I just remember liking his face, he is my most unproblematic Maquis fave, I don’t think he’s even turned up yet except maybe in the background, but whatevs, he can have the internal organ of his choice

Gross disease aliens, though!

Reasons the Vidiians are by far the most interesting of Voyager‘s new recurring aliens so far:

  • Honestly, just turning up and not being Kazon is a good place to start
  • They’ve been ravaged by this super gross fatal disease for two millennia (I … don’t believe in that timeline, it seems too long, but okay) and while we mostly interact with the organ-stealing doctors, the lung recipient, for example, is a sculptor. So they have more going on than just cruising around the galaxy stealing body parts.
  • Did I mention that they’re not Kazon?

The Kes show

The Neelix stuff is made even worse by the fact that Kes is turning out to be a wonderful character. She’s on a journey of self-discovery, and as she grows, she inspires growth in others.

Except Neelix.

But here she is the one who notices that the Doctor is already exceeding his programming, and he in turn offers to train her as a medic. Their relationship will also take on gross possessive overtones, because that is how the writers work, apparently, but for now, it’s solid and healthy and enjoyable to watch.

Wig watch

Kes’s wig is slightly more realistic than earlier, but we’re not quite there yet.

Other things

  • Shipping update: Janeway and Chakotay have a conversation and it’s totes flirty.
  • Neelix asks the Doctor if he’s programmed to sing. Dude, don’t open that can of show-hogging worms.
  • Janeway’s private dining room looks like it was a tiny little space with no windows whatsoever. So its loss is hardly something to regret.

Would I recommend this to a new Trekkie?

Nope. The Vidiians, and Janeway’s first big speech, aren’t enough to make up for … Neelix.

Two stolen organs out of five.

Author: Liz Barr

Words written. Opinions expressed.

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