The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
This is not just a review; it's a retelling of the episode from start to finish, limited only by my ability to remember the details. I do this for my friends in uniform and those living overseas or who otherwise do not have access to the episodes as they are aired.
Neelix needs a hug and a dose of Tough Love something fierce.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
Tuvok is striding through the corridors of Voyager when Neelix rushes to his side, asking if the Vulcan had forgotten their appointment to do a security run-through together. Neelix has been doing his homework, and feels himself qualified--or nearly so--to join the security team (junior grade). Neelix's tone suggests eagerness, but something else. "I feel I have more to contribute to the ship than my current duties suggest," Neelix offers. Tuvok says he cannot guarantee Neelix a security slot, and Neelix reacts with escalating desperation, unusual for our morale officer. "Captain Janeway says this is a ship of opportunity," he bleats. "Opportunities for promotion must be earned," notes Tuvok, stepping into a turbolift headed for the bridge. "But your dedication is duly noted." Neelix says he'll see the Vulcan tomorrow, with a hope in his voice that never quite reaches the eyes.
In Engineering, Torres calls over Ensign Vorek, a young Vulcan I don't recall seeing before. She asks for a tool. He suggests a better one. She tells him good idea.
Neelix arrives, asking why she didn't make it to the galley for his special Klingon Breakfast Buffet. She says cold G'agh isn't exactly her idea of Breakfast of Champions. Neelix admits the rest of the crew felt likewise. He immediately begins looking over her shoulders, and the conversation he had with Tuvok about Security, largely repeats itself here with Torres about Engineering: He's been boning up, and would like to make himself useful to her, but she seems less than eager to sign him up. It seems Neelix is desperately seeking reassignment.
Janeway calls him to the bridge. He arrives, and sees on the forward viewing screen a large multi-hued (largely violet) cloud. Once again, the captain has need of his expertise as the local native guide, her man Friday in the Delta Quadrant--the original reason for his being allowed to stay on board Voyager. She says the big cloud thingie looks ominous--and well it should, considering the luck Starships seem to have with big clouds.
Neelix looks at it, and his yellow eyes dilate in panicked resignation. "It's called...the Necrit Expanse," he says, uttering the name ominously. This sight bodes ill for someone.
* * *
"What can you tell us about this expanse?" Janeway asks.
"It's big," Neelix offers. "Nobody knows much about it, I'm afraid."
The cloud has a weather system that would make the Winter of 1997 look like a spring drizzle. Janeway asks if they can go around it. Neelix suggests they do so. However, it's several thousand light years around, and Janeway is impatient for such course diversions. Through, it is. Janeway tells Neelix they'll be counting on his quadrant expertise more than ever; the news doesn't seem to hearten him. He is silent for a few seconds, then puts on his brave face and says Of Course, Captain.
Janeway asks if there is a planet nearby where they can pick up supplies. He says there is a space station just inside the Expanse, where trade is common. She says great, and asks for directions. He doesn't have them. But it's been a while since he was here last, so...fortunately, Chakotay reports that it's on scanners, and they soon have the course plotted.
As they near the station Janeway speaks with Bharat, the big cheese--equal parts Odo and Quark. He gets a 20% fee on all transactions and has communications and travel monitoring policies that make Prodigy look like www.hottub.com. (For those playing the home game, Prodigy had a reputation for censoring messages in discussion groups. You can well imagine that the latter...did not.) Such proclamations, if unsavory, are at least up front, and Janeway admits they have little choice, and on his approval assembles an away team of herself, Neelix, Chakotay and Paris. (Are these two getting chummier? They couldn't stand each other for a while.)
Bharat is working away at his central consoles when Janeway arrives. He is preoccupied: "It's demanding work overseeing this station." Janeway is gracious. They go over her list of needed supplies, and he says he'll do what he can to line up a list of suppliers for her.
On the promenade, Paris and Chakotay view the various shops, which make DS9 during its first season look like the shops on Rodeo Drive. The floors ooze fog. An old fart in a hooded cloak approaches them and asks if he can help them with anything. They say they're looking for spindle bearings; the old guy offers them drugs. They just say no a couple of times until he gets the hint.
Neelix finds a map maker with a goatee--and goat's horns--and asks for charts of the Necrit Expanse. The map maker tells him it's too unstable to chart. Neelix's face falls a bit.
A voice calls from behind him, "it's okay, he couldn't follow a map even if you had one." Neelix turns around; it's Wix, a Talaxian that Neelix recognizes, a blast from his past.
They share a drink, and Neelix tells Wix all about his good fortune of serving aboard Voyager. It turns out Wix's fortunes have been significantly worse. He mentions a dealing with the "Ubeans" that went south. Neelix, reminded of the Ubeans, offers his thanks for what Wix did for him, and offers to help Wix in any way he can.
Neelix then takes a deep breath and spills what he hasn't dared tell anyone aboard Voyager--not even Kes, who has been conspicuously absent from Neelix's side in recent weeks, since "Warlord." He admits that his indispensability aboard the mighty Starship is tenuous at best; he may be cook, morale officer, native guide and unofficial ambassador for Janeway (see "Macrocosm"), but...he tells Wix that his expertise in the Delta Quadrant ends at the Necrit Expanse; he knows all too well that his cooking is underappreciated; his own morale is in the cistern; the captain really doesn't need an ambassador (I would beg to differ on this, though I know what it's like to be in a Deep Blue Funk). He says he's been trying to find another niche in which he can insert himself, but none of the department heads seem all that eager to adopt him. (He doesn't mention that Ensign Wildman loves his Must See TV "Breakfast with Neelix" program, or that his holo-resort is a big hit with the crew.)
Neelix says he has to find a map, because he cannot let Voyager go into uncharted waters with no idea what they're in for. He's desperate to help them, as much as to continue his usefulness to them. The poor guy is suffering from a severe esteem meltdown. (I'm guessing Kes dumped him.) And he dares not tell anyone what he's thinking, for fear of hastening his own imminent dismissal from the ship. Good thing he found his old Talaxian trading-partner buddy who saved his bacon all those years ago, who's even worse off than he is....
Toto, we're not on Talax anymore. The poor guy doesn't know how things work on a Federation Starship. If they'll let Wesley Crusher stay on board for four seasons....
* * *
Neelix is busily but despondently preparing the next meal in the galley when Vorek appears. Neelix mopes that he's busy working on dinner and doesn't have time to make a snack. (Someone call Charter hospitals; this poor guy's showing the signs of depression in big neon letters....) Vorek says he's here to fix the Replicators. Neelix snaps out of his funk long enough to give him the go-ahead.
Chakotay and Wix appear in the mess hall about this time. Wix tells Chakotay all about Neelix's many and varied talents, and Neelix puts on his brave face. Chakotay says Wix found those spindle bearings they were looking for. Neelix makes a comment about how Wix is good at finding the hard-to-find. Wix laughs, but it's forced. Chakotay leaves, and the two Talaxians chatter banalities until Neelix persuades Vorek to come back later. Soon they're alone.
Neelix, panicked, asks Wix if the spindle bearings were stolen. Wix denies it. They then talk more about Wix's predicament. His ship has been impounded, and Bharat won't release it until he pays an amount that he can't possibly come up with. He's doing what he can to get by, and hopefully to one day get out. He asks if Neelix would begrudge him that opportunity. Neelix admits he wants the best for his old chum, but only if he deals honestly with the Voyager crew.
Wix says he may have a line on the pergeum that the ship needs, which Bharat had earlier said would be hard to come by. (I didn't write it down, but believe me, he said it.) Not only the much-needed material, but also a map of the Necrit Expanse. He asks Neelix to help him arrange the trade. It'll take a shuttle, and some silence on Neelix's part. They'll be getting the pergeum and a load of medical supplies which will treat a lung disease; they need to be quiet about it to circumvent the all-seeing eye of Bharat's tax-o-vision monitors. Wix declares it's all perfectly legitimate, and with this one deal he could get his ship back and return to a Talaxian colony. Neelix agrees, but he looks a little nauseous.
Later that stardate, Neelix and Wix are in a shuttle craft, with pergeum and medical supplies. Neelix is still a little squeamish. "I don't like not telling the whole truth to Chakotay." Wix is a bit surprised; "you were never one to shy away from twisting the truth before," he says, mocking admiration in his tone. Neelix admit's he's changed. Wix says he is hoping for the same opportunity.
They prepare to beam to the station, and Wix takes a phaser along. Neelix protests, but Wix points out that the station is crawling with seedy types. Neelix relents, and they beam over.
Babylon 5's underground is cleaner.
They meet the contact--the cloaked drug dealer that Chakotay and Paris rebuffed (though Neelix never met him). They make the trade, and the old guy snorts and gets a beatific look on his face. Neelix finally catches on that this ain't your regular lung medication.
When the old guy opens fire on the two Talaxians ("I got yer payment right here, dudes...") Neelix ducks and rolls and cringes in fear, while Wix whips out the borrowed phaser and, shall we say, takes out the trash. A brief fight with other ambushing bad boys ensues. The alarms come on, the darkened corridor lights up like a well-lighted garbage truck interior, and Neelix isn't at all happy about how things are turning out. Wix tells him to hurry up and call for a beamout, and Neelix composes himself long enough to do so.
* * *
Back on the shuttle, Wix is gloating. Neelix is seething. "Those were narcotics, weren't they?" he demands. Wix turns on him, reminds him of his own past as a contraband smuggler, professional liar, and now drug-running murderer (or accomplice thereto). "You think your position aboard Voyager is tenuous now...." Wix threatens. Neelix still seems pretty well set on telling the captain or Chakotay what happened tonight. Wix gets worried, and whips out the Guilt Weapon. "I never did tell you what that year in the Ubean prison was like, did I? I ate worms to survive, got nibbled on by rodents while I slept, got tortured with cattle prods and Michael Bolton albums..." At this point Neelix screams in agony, his ears bleeding at the mention of the Unholy One, feared and loathed in all quadrants of the known universe and a few parallel dimensions. He agrees to anything Wix says before his fellow Talaxian can flick the switch on a live recording of "When a man loves a woman." But, Neelix says, "after this, the debt is paid and we have nothing further to do with each other." (This is a common plot; "old Vietnam buddy who saved your life takes advantage of you until you have no choice but to say "I think I've paid you back by now.'")
Janeway calls a staff meeting. "There's been a murder aboard the station," she informs the senior officers. "It happens all the time, and the victim was a druggie scum, but it involves us because a Federation phaser was used." She has promised Bharat the full cooperation of the ship and crew. Neelix, as might be expected, says nothing during all this.
Some time later, Tuvok summons Neelix to his office. He tells Neelix the model and setting of the phaser used, the number of Voyager folks aboard the station at the time (14), and the likelihood of each as a suspect. He asks Neelix about Wix, whom Bharat knows a good deal about, and who also had been aboard Voyager long enough to conceivably acquire a phaser. He asks Neelix to accompany him to question/interrogate Wix.
On the station, Neelix and Tuvok and Wix talk. Well, Tuvok and Wix talk, while Neelix stands away from the table, frowning. Wix is pleasant, speaks in candor--and lies through his teeth. When the questioning is over, Neelix stays behind for a belt of ale; Tuvok asks him to come to his office when he returns to the ship, and he agrees.
Neelix and Wix sit and talk some more. Neelix is not happy with the mounting pile of lies. Wix says there's a further complication: the drugs he'd picked up to sell to the recently-killed drug dealer belonged to a cartel that doesn't like losing profits, and they'll dissect and sell both Talaxians for spare parts if they don't get something valuable immediately. That valuable property: some of Voyager's warp plasma. Neelix balks; "I'm not stealing from my friends!" Wix points out with increasing harshness that he's as good as tossed off the ship already, so he might as well make sure he'll have a life on what promises to soon be his new home. "You have no choice," Wix tells him.
The road to Michael Bolton is paved with good intentions. Neelix has about four lanes paved at this point.
* * *
Neelix finds Paris in a store room, looking for a specific Starfleet-approved container to house some supplies they'll be picking up the next day bio-mimetic gel). Neelix offers to help find the container. While he looks, he asks Paris about the time he spent in jail, and what landed him there. To fit the theme, Paris thinks about it, and tells Neelix that ultimately, he thinks what got him defrocked and jailed was that he didn't tell the truth. He'd made a mistake (one that cost lives), but such can be forgiven, particularly of a young officer. But a Starfleet officer swears an oath, and Duty and Honor are held in high regard where oaths are concerned, and by lying to cover up his mistake, Paris sealed his fate. (Actually, the lie did get him into trouble, but what really got him was admitting that he'd lied. He might have gotten away with it if he'd stuck to the lie. But an honorable man can't keep a lie buried forever. It'll drive you crazy, like the tell-tale heart, until you speak the truth or go mad.) Neelix thanks him for the telling. Paris, sensing something is troubling the morale officer, extends an invitation to join him and some of the crew at the holo-resort, but Neelix politely declines.
In Engineering, Neelix apparently is shooting for some warp plasma, but Ensign Vorek is here (man; meet a new character once, and suddenly he's EVERYWHERE!) They talk briefly; the young Ensign is, despite his Vulcan heritage, far less intimidating than Tuvok. They talk somewhat of home, and of their good fortune in serving aboard Voyager. Then Neelix, mentioning his efforts to join the engineering team, climbs a tube with a container in hand. He looks at the plasma vents for a very long time.
Neelix approaches Wix on the station. Wix demands the warp plasma. "I've got to talk to you," Neelix whispers harshly. "Give it to me!" Wix urges. "I couldn't do it; we've got to tell the truth. It's the only way to make things right."
"We're dead men," Wix sighs. "I've got a plan," says Neelix.
Wix pulls Neelix behind a pylon. Bharat is coming. They hide while Bharat and his men stride purposefully through the promenade.
They walk right by the two Talaxians. They arrest Chakotay and Paris for drug trafficking, murder, and trying to avoid paying him his commission. The sentence: 50 years in cryo-stasis. They are carted away.
Bahrat shows Janeway a video of Chakotay and Paris meeting with the drug boy; it's circumstantial evidence at best, but it does show a connection, and they are thus prime suspects. He's the Big Man On Station, and he needs someone to punish. Someone's gonna sit on ice (rather, IN ice) for the next 50 years. He's a daunting presence; he towers over the diminutive Janeway, he has a mane of unkempt hair, sideburns and mustache (think cowardly lion) with a prominent Trek-Alien schnoz and forehead (think cowardly lion after a radioactive-waste disaster). He's the master of his domain, king of the dungheap. But by golly, it's HIS dungheap. "If I do nothing, there will be anarchy on this station in days," he says ominously.
Janeway stares down the hulking Buford Pusser of the Necrit Expanse. "I will not tolerate the detention of my people for a crime they did not commit." She offers her help in tracking down the real killers, and unlike some who so swear, she doesn't go golfing. She puts Tuvok on the trail. As Janeway and Tuvok walk through the Promenade, Neelix and Wix discuss their options. Neelix says his plan will save their bacon; Wix calls it a death sentence. "Death would be better than living a lie," Neelix says, meaning every word. Wix, realizing he has no cards left to deal, no more guilt to pile atop his erstwhile partner's head...relents. "I can't let you do this alone. We'll do or die together," he says, and the two Talaxians shake hands, true rapproachment reached at last.
* * *
Neelix and Wix tell Bahrat everything. They clear Chakotay and Paris, but claim they fired in self-defense. Bahrat tells them that the crime they've just admitted to will land them in cryo-stasis.
Neelix smirks a little. "Your deep-freeze punishment isn't very effective, is it?" Bahrat bristles; "Poppycock; this station is drug free, and I know everything that happens here." Wix tells Bahrat that he's deluding himself--that black market trading is going on beneath his nose all the time, and his well-managed station is merely a self-deluded illusion. The baddies know how to counteract his security measures, and have been doing so for a long, long time. But they can help him clean some of the crud out of the station.
They tell Bahrat that they're supposed to meet with the drug cartel guys on the station, and give them some warp plasma. They ask only for the opportunity to help him nab them in exchange for a full pardon. Bahrat says he won't let them have weapons, and they'll most likely die if they're telling the truth--but no loss to him if they do. He agrees to give them some ersatz warp plasma but otherwise leave them to their own devices.
Neelix and Wix stand in a darkened corridor, with Bahrat in his office monitoring for anything suspicious. Wix tells Neelix the cartel (Carlotti?) are bad guys. Neelix takes the warp plasma container and punches some buttons before the Carlotti arrive. They're ugly dudes; think "Predator." They don't much like the sample Neelix gives them, but Neelix points out that they're under arrest.
The Carlotti laugh. They pull a weapon. Neelix tells them that he released the safety, and the corridor has been leaking warp plasma for the last several minutes; by now, the area was saturated with it. Fire a phaser, or beam out, and the jostling of the particles will likely result in a big boom. Neelix is displaying a level of courage he hasn't shown all episode. Finally, he's doing something he believes in, is committed to; the steel in his voice and the go-ahead, make-my-day scorn he heaps on the drug lord and his minions is quite real. "But you'd die too," the Carlotti says, spitting. "Suits me fine," says Neelix; he'd rather die as a hero than live as a liar. At this point, Wix is the weenie of the two; their tables have turned.
The Carlotti looks ready to fire anyway. "Go ahead! I have nothing to lose! Fire!" The Carlotti blinks. 'Re-engage the safety," he asks.
"Don't bother," says a new voice. Bahrat and his security team arrive to save the day. "Hand over your weapons." Most do, but one of the cartelistas gets the bright idea to fire...and some more of that green fire that must have been left over from "Macrocosm" is put to use here, as the unfortunate gunman is engulfed and vaporized in a mushroom cloud of lime-green death.
Neelix awakes in sickbay. Holodoc says he'd suffered third-degree plasma burns...but nothing his able programming couldn't handle. Kes is in the background, tending to something, but soon arrives by his side--concerned, but not fawning as one might expect. This is a noticeably cooled relationship, methinks. Tuvok is also here. "One of the druggies was killed in the plasma blast," he reports. For one brief, shining moment, Neelix is surrounded by people who look concerned for him, and he feels loved. Tuvok also notes that Wix was given his shuttle back, and Kes says that Chakotay and Tom were released. All is well in the world; it's a wonderful life.
Janeway walks into the room. "Would you excuse us please? Mister Neelix and I have some things to discuss." Her face has the unspoken command: "this nanosecond." The room clears faster than sinuses at a chili cook-off. She hovers over his supine form. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?" she asks evenly.
"Only that I'm very sorry," Neelix croaks. "Oh, like that's supposed to make everything okay," she whispers in that "if I raised my voice another notch, you'd be dead by now" voice. She lists his sins: lying, sneaking around, hiding criminal activity... "The past two years you've been one of my most trusted advisors. How can I ever trust you again? How can I listen to you without wondering whether you're telling the truth?"
[Were I Neelix, I'd rather take warp plasma bong hits than endure the captain saying, "how can I ever trust you again?" Apparently Neelix felt the same way, since he as much as begged the bad guys to Blue Dart in a room full of gaseous green death. Better to die bravely than live through The Talk.]
Neelix swears to her that he's never misled her before this whole sordid incident. "I took one step at a time, each perfectly reasonable, until I was in so deep I didn't know what to do."
Janeway demands to know: What was so important that you were so willing to throw away your principles?
"I needed a map."
Janeway's eyes go wide in shock. "A map?" She has to stifle a smile despite her efforts at captainly discipline. She hadn't seen this coming at all.
Neelix's despair finally vents to official channels. "My usefulness to you was at an end. I know nothing of space beyond this point. I couldn't let you go into the Expanse unaided; I had to do something."
Janeway composes herself, back in dressing-down mode. After two years, she says, you should know that the First Duty of any Starfleet officer is to the truth. You violated that, she says with sabre-sharpness, and there will be consequences.
Neelix has been expecting this; the worst has happened. "I'm prepared to leave the ship, Captain." Alas, poor Neelix, we barely knew ye....
Janeway smirks. "I'm not letting you off that easy, Rat Boy. You're part of a family now, and you have obligations. We're all in this together."
Neelix's face registers shock, disbelief, and some remaining vestiges of hopelessness; "I don't know what's coming; I can't advise you." Unspoken: why would you want me around after this?
"That's what Starfleet is all about--sticking together, venturing into the unknown, getting by, by going together."
[I hesitate to point out the obvious, given Neelix's attire--he ain't Starfleet. Janeway erred in assuming that this creature of the Delta Quadrant would not only know but believe instinctively in the Starfleet Way. It should be obvious here that Neelix needs a crash course in Federation and Starfleet society so they are operating on common ground. But more on this later.]
After Neelix expecting the worst, this dressing-down from Janeway is turning into a pep talk, whether she expected it or not. "You're gonna spend the next two weeks scrubbing the exhaust manifolds. You'll have a lot of time to think about what I've said." If this is punishment, it's also just what the doctor ordered--Neelix has something concrete assigned to him on board. It may be crap duty, but since he's been feeling like crap, it's an ideal match. Neelix lights up like a JumboTron after a grand slam.
(I only hope that the crash course in the Starfleet Way includes a section on 'employees must wash hands before returning to kitchen duty'....)
Neelix says Aye Captain, salutes smartly, and leaves. Janeway stands there with a strange mixture of expressions. "Talaxians; can't live with 'em..." For all the trouble he'd just caused, she had to admire his intentions, Boltonized or not.
And all for want of a map...
I'm not sure how I feel about this one. Mostly, it made me sad for Neelix, and rubbed salt in my own gaping wounds of battered self-esteem. You usually look to entertainment to get your mind off your problems, not to remind you of them. If you're scoring high on the Charter Hospital pop quiz, you may not want to watch this one too many times.
What do we learn here? First, that Neelix has a past. Ooh, scary. He used to smuggle contraband--call the firing squad. Heck, the Delta Quadrant has been an almost unremittingly unpleasant part of the galaxy, and Neelix has been one of the most benign creatures we've encountered. (Even Kes, with her sweet disposition, still has a higher body count to her name than Neelix ever will. Even the worst of Neelix's cooking will never make Tuvok's eyes bleed like Kes did.) Yes, Neelix had an unsavory past. But Voyager picked him up while he was scavenging some wrecked ships, snarling like a dyspeptic Chihuahua over a scrap of food, and his first "away mission" with them involved subterfuge and hostage rescue. It's not like they had a high opinion of the guy to begin with; that they like him now has come from two years of building trust. And yet, the whole time, Neelix has felt like he's had to prove himself anew, on threat of expulsion from the warp-capable Eden. It was especially pronounced here, but having seen this episode, the signs are there in prior ones. Every time Neelix came up with some new innovation, it was in an effort to make himself needed.
And, though I've given him my share of hits over the years, I gotta admit that the little furball has grown on me.
Neelix frequently has a hard time understanding the Starfleet folks. He let his frustration with the strange creatures overcome him in "The Cloud," as he ranted about a people who would eagerly plunge their ship into clouds and nebulae and event horizons--places that most sensible people (like him) avoid. His ways are not their ways, and though he tries hard to fit in, the culture clash is often evident. Kes has had a far easier time fitting in, but she doesn't have such high expectations for herself; she doesn't have premonitions of imminent exile if she doesn't prove her worth every day. She helps the doctor and runs the garden because she's happy to help. Neelix does all that he does because he dare not do everything he can.
He's an overachiever, with a serious esteem problem.
Janeway makes a mistake with Neelix in the final scene. But it's also something she (or someone) should have picked up on a long time ago. Neelix ain't Starfleet; he wasn't born or raised in a society where a Starfleet was conceived of, let alone taken for granted. He ain't even Maquis-brand pseudo-Starfleet. No academy, no training, no from-the-womb socialization into the Federation Way. Since everyone speaks the Queen's English, it may be easy to forget sometimes that Neelix ain't from the Ponderosa--he's a by-golly ALIEN, which means certain Starfleet assumptions--the very things Janeway may take for granted that EVERYONE aboard also takes for granted--don't necessarily apply to Neelix. He spent most of his existence as something other than a Voyager morale officer et alia. He spent it as a scavenger, a contraband smuggler, a draft dodger, a lover, and above all as a lonely survivor.
Again, simply put: he ain't Starfleet. He is the product of the Delta Quadrant, and as he has proven (for good as well as ill repeatedly over the past two years) that he has a very different mindset. Their efforts to work together belied the simple fact that there were deep cultural differences between Starfleet and Talaxian that never got addressed, let alone resolved.
A little genuine communication would have prevented much of the pain of this episode. Janeway did say and do things that should have been enough, but for the basic difference in cultural assumptions. When Janeway suggested she might make Neelix ambassador, and heaped praise on him--that should have been enough. He certainly took it well at the time, but through the lense of crashing self-esteem he rationalized the praise away into insignificance.
Anyway, enough about that; I'm depressing myself. The whole time I watched this, I was thinking about times I've felt the same way. And since I'm unemployed at the moment, not all those times are in the distant past.
I do like Janeway's command presence. Her talk with Neelix was devastating, but it wasn't unrelentingly negative. She pointed out the good things about Neelix, and when they finally started talking she answered his concerns. I imagine she was genuinely upset at Neelix for his actions, but she also showed signs of amusement at his apocalyptic concerns. He was stressing over what she considered non-issues, but once she understood, her approach was masterful. She browbeat him into a state of hope. Even her punishment was a kindness: the whole episode, Neelix had been looking for something new he could do; she gave him one.
The scene between Neelix and Paris was interesting, and enlightening for our understanding of Paris, but a little contrived I thought. Paris basically covered this ground all the way back in "Caretaker": "My real crime was covering up the truth." You can make mistakes that cost lives, and it need not get you court martialed; heck, just think of all the dead crewmen Kirk has on his conscience, some of which he agonized over for years. (The blood-sucking space cloud, for example.) The first duty is to the truth. Paris lost a lot by finally bowing to that first duty, after violating it. But he regained his honor, however battered it was at that point, and that paved the way for his eventual redemption.
Wix was an obligatory, pretty much a cookie-cutter, figure of the Blast From The Past. Every show that has done a War Buddy Gone Bad story has a guy like Wix. He saved my life once, and he'll hold that over my head until I die. When is enough enough? When is the debt paid in full? He and Wix probably got along great back when they were both smugglers, but as Wix comments repeatedly, "you've changed." He's envious; he'd like to think that he'd have been the changed one had he ended up on Voyager. But the show suggests different; he couldn't change without Neelix leading the way, and in the end Wix owes Neelix a far larger debt--he restored Wix's honor, gave him a reason to hold his head high again. As Neelix said in the confrontation with the bad guys in the plasma-filled room, there's worse things than death.
The rest of the story is pretty basic. It's good to see a space station; I had a hard time believing that there aren't more of those in the Delta Quadrant. I'd like to believe that there are more than we've seen, which is how they've keep the ship functioning, particularly after the more devastating battles with Kazon, Vidiians, etc. There are those in this quadrant who know how to trade, who bow before the universal quest for profit.
The one thing I was very glad to hear about this episode was that we finally know where the limits of Neelix's "known space" is. I'm surprised it took this long to reach it, but I'm glad that we've passed a very significant milestone. From here on out, we're truly in uncharted territory, for all the characters. It'll be interesting to see how Neelix adapts.
The young Vulcan we met in this episode reminds me a lot of the young Vulcan Ensign in the TNG episode "Chain of Command" (?) Is he the same actor, with a bad haircut? Inquiring minds wanna know.
[01/20/97 Update: I inquire, you respond. Thanks!The Vulcan in question, played by Alexander Enberg, did play the young Ensign Taurik in the TNG episode "Lower Decks"--not "Chains of Command." There is no indication whether Taurik and Vorek are related--the names rhyme and it's the sort of torture parents tend to inflict on their offspring--but his sudden prominence suggests one of several things: he will be seen prominently in at least one future episode ("Alter Ego"), and he will most likely die unpleasantly once we've warmed up to him. Get fitted for that Morn suit now, Alex; you heard it here first.]
On the whole, I thought this was a good, but routine episode, with some welcome surprises thrown in. But on the whole, it was still less than I'd hoped.
On a 0-10 scale, I'll give this a 6.75, or (* * 1/2). Perhaps my standards were raised by November Sweeps, but this one just didn't move me, except to remind me of my own inadequacies. This episode made me shave my sideburns.
Next Week: Tuvok and Harry Kim battle over the affections of a holo-babe.