Okay, so we have seen Strange New Worlds and New Civilizations….only we haven’t because that episode didn’t really happen. Okay, back to square one. What about seeking out new life? Isn’t that a thing still? Oh, what if that ‘New Life’ seeks you out…for parts?! Oh yeah, things get downright terrifying in the episode that originally aired on February 6, 1995, this is PHAGE!!!!!
Captains Log Stardate 48532.4 Phage
After Neelix has his lungs stolen (yeah you read that right), the crew of Voyager must rush to find those responsible before the Talaxian trader dies… When they do, they discover something even more terrifying than they could imagine!
After setting course for a planetoid that may contain dilithium, Janeway is shocked to find her private mess hall has been taken over by Neelix and converted into a ships galley. Upset at the issue her rage is interrupted by a call from Chakotay indicating that they have arrived at the planetoid. Taking Neelix along the Talaxian leaves a random officer in charge of an already chaotic kitchen.
Beaming into the caves of the Planetoid, Chakotay, Harry Kim and Neelix begin taking a geological survey of the potential source of dilithium. Unknown to them all, they are being stalked.
Before long it becomes obvious that there is no sign of Dilithium on the planetoid but, when Neelix indicates he has found what they are after, he finds nothing there. Chakotay orders the group to return to Voyager but just before they leave Neelix finds strange biological readings. Investigating further the Talaxian is attacked by an unknown assailant and collapses to the ground. Rushing to his aid, they beam Neelix to sickbay where it is discovered that his lungs has been removed. Rushing to his aid, the Doctor stabilizes him but will not be able to replicate or transplant his lungs due to the Talaxian physiology. Utilizing Tom Paris, the Doctor begins working on his new patient. Soon the Doctor realizes that he can holographically replace Neelix’ lungs as a temporary measure.
Returning to the sight of the lung theft, Janeway, Harry, Tuvok and an unnamed crewman discover a secret base on the planetoid. There they find a biological repository that contains various organs from innumerable species. Detecting the assailant nearby, the team manage to secure his weapon just before the aliens escape in a vessel. Returning to the ship, Janeway and crew begin their hunt for the Organ thieves.
Back in sickbay, it appears the operation is a success but it will limit Neelix’ mobility to just in the restraint for an undetermined amount of time. Despite his recovery, Neelix makes it clear that he is worried that Tom Paris is interested in Kes. Kes tries to assure Neelix that nothing will happen to end her relationship with the Talaxian but it is clear, Neelix is worried and will not let it go. Before long Neelix begins get on the nerves of his holographic Doctor companion. Neelix begins to show signs of agitation causing his holographic lungs to fail. Sedating him, the Doctor realizes that he will not be able to maintain this for much longer.
Knowing he needs help, The Doctor summons Kes for assistance. Kes observes that the Doctor is having difficulties with his current situation and offers her assistance. Talking to him, she finds that he is having a hard time adapting to being on 24/7 without help.
Voyager catches up to the alien ship only for it to hide in what seems to be an artificial asteroid. Taking the ship into the asteroid, Janeway prepares for a battle with the Lung Thieves. Entering, they soon find themselves in the equivalent of a hall of mirrors unable to easily find the alien ship. Soon they find Voyager under attack via a dampening field that begins to drain their energy reserves. Finding an energy source, they soon adjust the phasers to detect the alien ship and beam the aliens aboard Voyager.
With the aliens aboard, they discover them to be grotesque beings who are in no way remorseful of their deeds. They identify themselves as Vidiians who are in search of bio-mater and organs in order to continue to fight against a malady known as The Phage. It appears they have been fighting The Phage for nearly 200 years despite their advanced medical technology. Janeway is shocked to learn that Neelix’ lungs have been grafted on one of the aliens, identified as Motura, and will be unrecoverable. Although Janeway wants to take the lungs back, she can not allow herself to kill someone to do it. Freeing them with a warning, Janeway is shocked when Motura asks to see Neelix as he believes that they can help save him. Despite his protests, the other Vidiian, Dereth, agrees and indicates that they can use a donated lung as a graft allowing Neelix to breath once again. Kes volunteers and goes through with the procedure after Janeway informs Neelix that he can keep his new kitchen…for now.
After the successful operation, The Doctor informs Kes that he has gotten permission to train Kes as his new nurse, to assist…or even replace…Tom Paris. He admits that she has given The Doctor some things to consider.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
Okay, First off. Seriously? If there was a race of people in the area that were known for stealing organs how could Neelix not know about this? I mean, they really haven’t gone that far and, for someone who claims to know the area, this is yet another strike against this claim. Not only did he put the crew in danger but also nearly caused his own death. You would think that someone would point out how little Neelix knows at this point but noooooo.
Okay, rant over. I actually really like this episode. Four episodes in and we are already getting some serious character development AND a really cool, albeit freaky, new species. (More on them later). Let’s talk about that character development first!
This episode is really about three key characters, Kes, The Doctor and, of course, Neelix. While the rest of the crew handle the action, the real story is how these three deal with a crisis and what comes of that exposure to the unknown.
For Neelix, it is pretty much as expected, he is clearly uncertain of himself (as much as we are at this point) and really doesn’t know where his place is on the ship. This is fully manifested when he practically steals Janeway’s private dining room and takes it over. With all the work he put into it SOMEONE had to have said something to him, so I doubt that he was really ignorant of what that area was but, that aside, his attempt to be the ships chef is really an attempt to belong and be useful. It is clear he does not know what he is doing as demonstrated in the last episode. So it is no surprise that he is attempting to find his place. It is only when he is faced with literally being useless that he realizes that he probably needs to throw in the towel, not before throwing a fit about Tom Paris liking Kes. Then Kes donates her lung to the big baby and shows him just how much she cares for him. Speaking of Kes…
For Kes, this is a great journey showing her more maternal and caring side. Sure we have seen her put up with Neelix’ b.s. but that could be some kind of Stockholm syndrome as far as we know, her interactions with the Doctor really show us that she is, in fact, a genuine person. This episode establishes a great story arc for her that will play out over time making Kes somewhat responsible for the growth in the Doctor himself, unfortunately nothing lasts for ever.
As for the Doctor, this is the first chance we have really gotten to interact with the EMH. For most of the episodes he has been relegated to the background or as the comic relief but there are a few moments in this episode that you begin to realize that he might be evolving. We have known for some time, with Moriarty on TNG, and later with Vic Fontaine on DS9, that holograms have the potential to be sentient but that idea has never really been fleshed out until the introduction of Robert Picardo’s incredible character. He may not seem like much now but, trust me, he is sure to become one of your favorite doctors in Star Fleet.
Now let’s talk about the Vidiians. Talk about creepy huh? A literal race of biological smugglers and walking ghouls that have spent 200 years stealing parts to keep themselves from falling apart. In a way, these are space lepers who went off the deep end and started using people as parts. It’s creepy, it’s vile and this totally qualifies as new life and new civilizations. You know this will not be the last we see of them and I promise, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Okay, so for the fourth episode in the series, this one was really fun and set up just how dangerous the Delta Quadrant can be. With great character development, great drama and a cool new species, this is certainly a solid entry to the first season of Star Trek Voyager.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- So Kes must be a really good farmer if she is already growing food abundant enough for Neelix to cook with.
- We see yet another moment of jealousy Neelix harbors for Tom Paris. This is not the last we see of that and it becomes a real ‘thing’.
- Paris is a terrible Nurse and that is also revisited again.
- The throwaway line that Neelix utters asking the Doctor if he could sing will be revisited later. You have to wonder if Neelix was in fact the one who put it into the Doctor’s head.
- We learn that Janeway and Tuvok have served together for 4 years a fact that will be revisited later.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: The Cloud
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Late To The Game 4/10/2020
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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