Monday, October 12, 2015

Character Insight No. 163: Best of Neelix

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here 

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we continue the "Best Of" series with a look at the best episodes featuring Neelix, from Voyager. 

(Neelix, courtesy Memory Alpha)

Although not as well developed as some other main characters, Neelix is a constant presence thanks to his varied roles on the ship including comic relief, chef, and chief morale officer. He has at least one spotlight episode in every season, which is more than some other characters in the Voyager ensemble. 

And he was originally profiled way back in the third episode of this segment in May 2012! Well overdue for an update, so let's look at his best quotes and moments. 

In the Season 4 episode Mortal Coil, Neelix experiences death for over 18 hours as a result of hazards in a survey mission at a nebula. When revived using Borg technology from Seven, Neelix suffers from a crisis of faith when he does not experience the afterlife he expected.

Neelix: I died, and there was nothing. There was no one there. No Forest. 
Chakotay: Forest? 
Neelix: The Great Forest. The afterlife. I was taught that when I died, my ancestors would be there, waiting for me by the Guiding Tree. My sisters, my mother and father, my cousins, everyone who was killed in the war. I took great comfort in knowing that we'd all be together again one day. But it's not true. 

He in fact almost commits suicide, but with the guidance of Chakotay and a timely intervention to go soothe his somewhat goddaughter Naomi's fears of monsters at bedtime, he realizes life does have purpose other than the afterlife. 

Neelix is often paired with Tuvok for stories in view of how opposite these characters are. Although many like the Season 6 episode Riddles for the odd couple character development, I find the Season 2 episode Tuvix more fascinating. A transporter accident causes Tuvok, Neelix, and a flower they were collecting on a planet to be merged into a new person later called Tuvix. Which is funny because they are so different.

Neelix: You know something? You're acting more Tuvokian than usual this morning. 
Lieutenant Tuvok: I am who I am, Mr. Neelix. It is impossible for me to be more or less like myself. 

The Doctor develops a way to disentangle the DNA and molecules of these characters from one another, but this takes a couple of weeks and the new character Tuvix had endeared himself to the crew. Indeed, the combination strangely brings out the best side of both characters in unison. That leads to some difficult philosophical questions about life and death decisions, and the Captain eventually has to make the judgment call to terminate Tuvix to give Tuvok and Neelix their lives back. But it's not easy, as proven by this plea for life as the combined being:

Tuvix: I know there'll be some people who... will call me a coward because I didn't sacrifice myself willingly. Believe me, I've thought of that. But I have the will to live of two men. Look at me, Captain. When I'm happy, I laugh. When I'm sad, I cry; when I stub my toe, I yell out in pain. I'm flesh and blood. And I... have the right to live!

Another good character piece is Fair Trade from Season 3, in which Neelix makes a series of poor decisions trying to help an old acquaintance who has very nefarious schemes in mind, while Neelix is just trying to unravel the mess that gets worse and worse. It's a parallel to The First Duty in TNG, and a very relatable story with the great lesson to just fess up before the cover up makes things far worse. 

Wixiban: We'll end up in his cryostatic prison for decades. 
Neelix: Not if he agrees to my plan. 
Wixiban: Your plan is crazy. It's worse than prison; it's a death sentence! 
Neelix: That would be better than living a lie. 

If nothing else, Neelix brought good local Delta Quadrant flavor to the ensemble cast, and it was good to see him get some serious episodes to balance out the usual humor. Other top episodes include Jetrel, Once Upon a Time, and Homestead. Even if you found Neelix annoying, at least he was never dull.

Until next time, enjoy that Delta Quadrant home cooking. 


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

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