For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.
Episode Overview – The crew of the USS Voyager approach the Nekrit Expanse, an uncharted, vast and dangerous region of the delta Quadrant. This is also the end of the part of space that Neelix is familiar with. Fearing his usefulness to the crew is at an end, Neelix finds himself desperate to be able to be useful to the crew again, and he ends up embroiled in more trouble than he bargained for.
Episode Score – 8/10. This is a very good Neelix-centric episode. Ethan Phillips gives a great performance, and the storyline makes a lot of sense. We also get a great performance from James Nardini, who plays Wixiban, an old Talaxian friend and former partner of Neelix. The music is done well, and the sets for the space station are great.
Relevance – 2 points. The Nekrit expanse becomes the setting for the crew over the next while in the show. Also we see the station again in a later episode called “Distant Origin”. We also see the debut of Vulcan engineer, Enisgn Vorik, who goes on to appear in at least one episode for all of the seasons from here on in.
Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity get a point. I especially liked how Neelix approaches Tom Paris for advice on his situation, given the evolution of their friendship. I gave a point for universe continuity. The Nekrit expanse is perfect for the explanation as to why we don’t see many Vidians and Kazon in the later seasons of Voyager nor does the future encounters of powerful species (Borg and Hirogen) in the earlier seasons. As far as story continuity, everything fits with what has happened or will happen, so this gets a point as well.
Character Development – 2 points. This is Neelix’s show. We learn more about him in this single episode than we do in entire seasons of the series. We learn about his less than stellar past and gain a better appreciation of how far he has come since joining Voyager. As I said before, Ethan Phillips puts in a very strong performance. I know that Neelix has his fair shares of haters out there, but they would have to give the character props in this episode. He shows true depth as his loyalties are torn. Unfortunately, while it is nice to get such a great story for Neelix, it comes at the expense of the other characters. Kes and the Doctor only appear in one scene, and Ensign Kim is nowhere to be found. For the rest of the crew, they are just there to move the story along. There was a scene that was deleted that could have pushed this up an extra point as it provided some closure for the end of Kes and Neelix’s romantic relationship. From what has been said of it, it was cut simply for time reasons. Hopefully it will be restored in a future Blu-Ray collection.
Social Commentary – 3 points. Integrity and a desire to be useful are universal concepts that most if not all of us are familiar with. It is important to feel that we provide a meaningful contribution to whatever organization we are affiliated with. Sometimes that desire comes into conflict with doing the right thing. We also see in Neelix’s story the risk of good intentions leading us down the proverbial road to hell as he attempts to do something meaningful to his crewmates. The testing of loyalties is also a common experience. Janeway gives a speech reminiscent of Picard’s dressing down of Cadet Crusher when she tells Neelix that a Starfleet Officer’s first duty is to the truth, which I think should apply to everyone, Starfleet or not.
Cool Factor – 2 points. In this episode we see two veteran Trek guest stars in another of multiple characters. Carlos Carrasco makes his only Voyager appearance as Bahrat, the station manager. This is Carrasco’s third of four characters he has played in Trek (the other three were in DS9). James Horan, who has appeared in every trek spin-off, appears as Tosin, a violent Kolaati trader, making his third of five appearances. This scores one point for “Cool Factor”. A second point is scored with the Ensign Vorik, played by Alexander Enberg. Enberg first played a young Vulcan Starfleet officer in the TNG episode “Lower Decks”. Jeri Taylor, producer of the show (and mother of the actor in question), has said that the two characters could easily be twin brothers.
Rank – Captain (20 points). Between this and “Jetrel”, it is hard to say which is the best Neelix story. While I get that Neelix is great for comedy, it was always nice to see the writers add some depth to his character, and this episode does a fine job of it. It is also simply a well-crafted and acted episode.