Star Trek: Voyager – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Phage” – An Introduction to a Fascinating Antagonist With the Story Brought Down by Neelix

    “Phage” gives us one of the best antagonists to come out of “Voyager.” I’ll get into them in the review but their compelling backstory and complex motivations make them fascinating. It is a shame that the one they hurt is Neelix when Neelix does everything in this episode to make sure you’ll hate him. Luckily the episode doesn’t hinge on Neelix as Janeway, Chakotay, The Doctor and Kes all get some great development this episode.

The episode was directed by Winrich Koble with Teleplay by Skye Dent and Brannon Braga and story by Timothy DeHaas.

The story follows Voyager when they investigate a planet for dilithium, as they are in need of resources. When Neelix goes with the away team his lungs are stolen by a mysterious alien leaving the crew to rush to stop get back his lungs or find a way for him to live.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Captain Janeway and Chakotay – This episode starts out really strong before we get to Neelix. We have Janeway and Chakotay talking to each other about breakfast and you get an idea of how they’ve been roughing it since the replicators broke (they are on replicator rations). It is a sweet moment that adds dimension to their relationship which helps as Chakotay leads the away team and is the main crewmember investigating this mysterious threat.

The Doctor and Kes – The Doctor is really humanized in this episode as we realize that he has no help beyond Tom Paris. This leads to Kes advocating for him in order to be his nurse so he isn’t alone. It is really in the moments where Neelix is being a dick to him and his extreme patience and Kes advocating for him that show how he is more than a program. I’m glad Kes became his aid as he did need it and their relationship is neat as Kes is really the first character to really recognize his humanity and rights. Also Picardo’s charm is on display as he rolls his eyes at how annoying Neelix is. The Doctor is easily one of my favorite characters on “Voyager.”

The Vidiians – The Vidiians are a fantastic antagonist. You have a species dying from a phage that has decimated and continues to destroy their population. Their only way to live is by harvesting organs from other lifeforms. They are in constant pain because of the phage and because of it do not fear death. I think it is this lack of fear (and their saving of Neelix by transplanting Kes’s lung in him) that leads to Captain Janeway letting them go. Suffice to say, they do show up again as a threat.

The Cons:

Neelix – Neelix is the worst part of this episode. He is selfish (keeps going on how Kes just wants to be with Paris) and is complaining all the time the Doctor and starts out the episode taking over an area of the ship to cook. His losing his lungs happens because he refused to listen to Chakotay too. Chakotay told him to pull back and he refused to listen. Seriously this episode only has Neelix as a negative and is a great example of why I’m not a fan of the character.

This is an enjoyable episode that is nearly good. It has so much going for it but having far too much time with Neelix and not enough time developing the aspects that worked kept it from getting to good or great. If you are a fan of “Voyager” it still one I recommend though. The Vidiians are a fascinating antagonist and I wish they could have got more stories in “Voyager.” They were one of the few original aliens that really made a mark on the series.

FInal Score: 7.8 / 10

Star Trek: Voyager – Season 1, Episode 8 – “Ex Post Facto” – The Time “Voyager” Went Noir

Ex Post Facto (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

     “Ex Post Facto” is early “Voyager” and trying to tell a Noir style mystery. Overall it works, though the greatest things against it is the dialogue. At times it felt like the characters were speaking as Noir archetypes, rather than characters which kept me from rating it higher. Tuvok is the most compelling character in the story and I was grateful to see him get some development. This was an episode I overall enjoyed and I’ll get into why below.

The teleplay was by Evan Carlos Somers and Michael Piller and was directed by LeVar Burton.

Tom Paris is convicted of murder, leading to Voyager and Tuvok investigating into events further.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Mystery Presentation – The mystery is presented in interviews and a black and white memory file of the victim. This is beautifully done and LeVar Burton does a great job capturing the stakes and mystery of each scene, as well as capturing the tension between characters.

The Politics and Species – The politics of this episode are fascinating. You have the Banae and Numiri who are at war and once shared a world. Throughout the episode the Numiri are neutral to hostile and we soon see that there are some Banae working with them. I wish the conflict had been explored further, but the premise of the conflict as well as the designs were very well. The Banae look more human with feathers on their head while the Numiri are entirely reptilian. I’m glad they didn’t go cheap for the character designs on these two.

The Doctor’s Individuality – Kes is one of the first people to help the Doctor realize he is more than his programming. It is a really well done scene as she questions why he discounts what he cares about and if he’d ever choose a name. I loved their relationship in this as it had the Doctor as a mentor but also learning from the only person who could see his humanity.

Chakotay and the Maquis – Chakotay asks Janeway to do a Maquis tactic to neutralize the enemy Numiri forces and we see him work with Torres to pull it off. It is beautifully done and I wish we’d seen more of it. This is early in the show, so they are still showing the Maquis perspective on this voyage home. It was great seeing his origin as a Maquis put to use and him working with one of his crewmen (Torres) to pulls it off.

Janeway – Janeway is both respectful of the conflict she is in the middle of and not taking a side while doing everything she can get Paris back. I really liked her appreciation here and hated how when she came to Neelix for advice he acted like an ass. This is an episode that shows why she leads and I like how she calls out Chakotay’s tactic that is good they never met in battle. Even if she was bluffing it was a nice bit of dialogue.

Tuvok – Tuvok is the heart of the episode. It is his quest for the truth that helps it come to light. He mind melds with Paris and notices the height difference between he and the woman he was cheating on her husband with and also the data in the memory. It is from this he extrapolates someone is trying to pass information onto the Numiri due to them attacking everytime Paris is leaving or coming to Voyager. We learn he’s been married for years in this episode too and he accepts Tom Paris’s friendship which was a touching way to end the episode.

The Cons:

The Dialogue – The dialogue is really on the nose. Anytime characters are discussing the murder they sound like jaded cynics, which didn’t fit. When Harry Kim was talking like someone twice his age, I didn’t believe it. The best dialogue is when it is naturally occurring dialogue like Chakotay and his plan and any scenes with Tuvok.

The Motivation of the Villains – The villains were trying to sell weapon technology to a species they were at war with. Why? I didn’t see what they were getting out of the situation. The performances were fine but they needed a more fleshed out motivation. Lidell is only using Paris as she is already with a Doctor who doesn’t even have a name in the episode. They needed more motivation. The performances were good but they needed a deeper motivation.

Neelix – Neelix jokes around way too much for the crew trying to save Paris. He comes off as uncaring and not really knowing all that much about either people in the conflict. He was the only crewmember this episode could have done without and been better for it.

This is a solidly enjoyable episode. LeVar Burton clearly knew what he was going for in telling the murder mystery Noir and he captures this beautifully. The only issues were the dialogue at times and the motivation of the villains. We never learn why they were trying to get weapons to the Numiri and why they’d betray their own people. Besides this, we get to see so many of the crew shine and this never stops being an episode with stakes.

Final Score: 7.7 / 10