We finally get some backstory for Neelix when he comes face to face with a nightmare from his own past. Originally airing on May 15,1995 this is Jetrel.
Captain’s Log Stardate 48832.1 Jetrel
When a Doctor from Neelix’ home world arrives on Voyager, Neelix must come face to face with the very scientists who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Neelix’ own people many years before.
After a brief pool game with Paris and Tuvok, Neelix is called to the bridge where Janeway informs her Talaxian crew-member of a Haakonian shuttle on approach with a passenger who wishes to speak with Neelix. When the Haakonian identifies himself as Dr. Ma’Bor Jetrel, Neelix is clearly distraught at the revelation.
After Neelix storms off the bridge, Janeway visits him to figure out why her mild mannered Chef is so upset. Neelix explains that Jetrel is the man responsible for the mass murder of Neelix’ own people having invented a device known as the Metreon Cascade. After the deaths of over 300,000 people on the moon of Rinax, including Neelix’ own family, the Talaxians surrendered to the Haakonians.
Despite Neelix’ dismay, Jetrel is invited on board when the doctor indicates that Neelix may be at risk of a degenerative blood disease caused by the fallout of the Metreon Cascade. Jetrel hopes to screen Neelix with the intent on making a cure. Janeway tries to reason with Neelix, explaining that they must do everything they can to determine if Neelix is in fact in danger. Neelix reluctantly agrees to talk with Jetrel despite his animosity toward the Haakonian doctor. After a discussion with Jetrel, Neelix realizes that the Doctor may be doing this only to ease his own guilt, but finally agrees to participate despite his own misgivings.
Jetrel reveals to Neelix that the Talaxian does in fact have the degenerative disorder known as Incipient Metremia and Neelix begins to process the revelation. Neelix admits that the one good to come of this is that he will not outlive Kes and her short life span. With only a short time left to live, he will have her for his entire life.
Jetrel visits Janeway with the possibility of a cure using Voyager’s transporter technology and the Metreon Cloud surrounding Rinax. Excited at the prospect of saving her crew-member although it is a significant detour from their current course, Janeway agrees to take Jetrel back to Rinax but notes that he seems to be in some sort of physical pain.
As Voyager heads toward Neelix’ homeworld, Neelix and Jetrel work together so that Jetrel can continue his studies in hopes to better understand the nature of the Metremia. Neelix pleads with Jetrel asking why his people used the Metreon Cascade on a civilian populous. Jetrel explains that the target was not his decisions but that of the military. However, he bore the stigma of the deaths of the people of Rinax and was seen as a monster by his own family. Neelix, trying to get Jetrel to understand his pain, describes what he saw when he returned to Rinax after the Metreon Cascade was released, describing the charred, still living people who he encountered as he tried to find survivors. Jetrel admits that his family was right, he knows that he, himself, has become a monster. Jetrel then reveals that he himself has advanced Metremia and will die in a matter of days.
That night Neelix has a nightmare about the situation on his homeworld revealing some deep seeded guilt that the Talaxian has been harboring. Waking to Janeway informing him that they are approaching Rinax, it is clear that Neelix has trepidation about returning home. On the bridge, Neelix describes the events of the attack on Rinax from the perspective of being on Talax. He is clearly distraught and excuses himself from the bridge. Not long after Kes finds Neelix in his kitchen clearly upset and hiding from…something. Neelix soon reveals the truth he has been holding back, he explains that he was not in fact part of the Defense Force, but was hiding from them. He tells Kes that he had went AWOL refusing to report for duty, claiming that he disagreed with the war efforts, and has felt like a coward ever since. Kes tries to get Neelix to realize that in order to stop hating Jetrel, the Talaxian needs to stop hating himself first.
Working with Jetrel, B’Elanna beams aboard some of the Metreon cloud. Soon however, after deactivating the EMH, Jetrel pulls some biological material from the Metreon Cascade. Soon Neelix walks in on him believing the scientist might be participating in some unethical scientific work. Neelix is rendered unconscious but, when Janeway tries to contact the SickBay it is revealed that Jetrel is up to something in the transporter room. Rushing to the transporter, Janeway and Tuvok find Jetrel attempting to beam something from the cloud. Soon Jetrel explains that he has found a way to bring back the victims of Rinax using Voyager’s transporters. His beliefs in saving the Talaxians he killed has caused his exile and, in hopes to make up for his past sins, he lied about Neelix’ condition in order to get the to Rinax. Despite sounding insane, Janeway sees the science in Jetrel’s claims coupled with Neelix’ pleading and allows the doctor to proceed. Working together, they attempt to beam aboard one of the many victims of the Metreon Cascade. Although they get close to bringing back one of the victims, the damage is far too great and they are unable to bring him back.
Later, Neelix visits Jetrel in sickbay as the Doctor is finally succumbing to his illness. In the Doctors last moments, Neelix tells him that he forgives him for his actions on Rinax.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
First off, lets get the obvious out of the way. This story was clearly about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Although I was not alive during those events, I still find it hard to believe that the United States dropped bombs on innocent civilians to the scale of Atomic Bombs. While this is becoming more and more believable over time, and I will not regress into political statements on this blog so bare with me please, it is still one of the most horrific things that has come to pass in our history. The description Neelix gives when he talks about returning home to find ‘monsters with charred flesh coming out of the clouds of dust’ is a common description of the people found not long after the bombings. Men, women and yes even children were burned, maimed and, of course, killed leaving behind a scar that honestly will never fully heal.
The episode itself is a testament to incredible character development and writing. For this to be the penultimate episode of the first season, I really feel we have had one of the most well written opening seasons of any Star Trek series thus far. Not only have we gotten to know most of the characters, each episode that has given a specific character the spotlight has made that character some significant depth. From B’Elanna and her internal battle to even the EMH and his burgeoning self awareness. Sure we haven’t dove into everyone yet but that in and of itself is a good thing, I mean we do have six more seasons to get to know these folks.
One character who has gotten a little bit of the short stick is that of the Talaxian…guy who honestly hasn’t served much of a purpose even with his rather shoddy Delta Quadrant navigation duties (which I have called out a few times). While he has shown himself to be a rather decent cook, we haven’t really gotten a chance to know Neelix until now.
This episode really brings our Talaxian Trader full circle having found him essentially ‘on the run’ as he attempted to
kidnap rescue Kes from the Kazon with Voyager’s help. It seems that Neelix has really been on the run for most of his life not only in a physical sense but in a personal one as well. As seen in this episode, Neelix is a person consumed with guilt. Having harbored this guilt of not being present for his family at the time of their death, it has effectively made him into the rather distrustful of anyone else as he has trouble trusting himself. If you look at his actions this season through this lens, you will almost understand him a little more and, kinda forgive him as well.
Neelix has been hurt, by Jetrel and, more seriously, by his own self flagellation. His distrust of others and determination to get the upper hand is stemmed from his experiences in the war with Haakonia. We can see this in his initial attempts to use Voyager’s crew to his own means and, when finally joining them, he continued distrust of their actions and very nature. Determined to be of use, he seems to overcompensate and over exaggerate his own usefulness, covering up his personal issues in a sea of lies and deception. While he is not malevolent in any way, he has trust issues and really that is to be expected. In a way I almost feel bad about calling him out as being rather useless but seriously, the dude has issues. Incredible, all of this makes Neelix a truly complex character providing a substantial depth to an already diverse crew.
While there is some debate on whether he felt any real guilt for his involvement in the development of the Atomic Bomb, Oppenheimer is known to have at least had misgivings of his involvement in the creation of the bomb. Whether he felt guilt for it, we will never really know but I imagine had he ever been confronted by one of the victims of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, he might have had a moment to think about what he had been responsible for. Whether that resolves his guilt in the eyes of history is a debate for another time and place, but we let’s talk about Jetrel and his involvement in the Metreon Cascade.
Imagine coming face to face with the man who, essentially, murdered your family and decimated your own people. Imagine having to work with someone who obliterated your entire childhood home just for political interests. Sure, Jetrel argues that what he did was in the name of science, but is there any real redemption for him after his actions in life? This is a deep question that is posed in this episode as we explore Neelix’ interaction with the Doctor Jetrel.
Jetrel makes it clear that he wishes to undo what he had done making amends for his misdeeds before dying from the very thing he helped create. You have to ask yourself though, does a last minute attempt at redemption really count? While we don’t know the religious beliefs of the Haakonians, and I will not project my own on them, you have to acknowledge that this last attempt is simply one to ease his conscience before death. Everyone has guilt of some sort and it is well known that, as our lives come to an end, we begin to think about the things we have done and what we leave behind in this existence. Imagine being known to history as having been responsible for the deaths of over 300,000 people. If you had even the smallest semblance of ‘humanity’ this fact would lay heavily on you as your life came to a close. My question, which there is no real answer for, is could Jetrel be forgiven? I have to say I felt it was an important moment for Neelix to forgive Jetrel for his actions, I can not say I could have done the same.
Overall, this is one of my favorite episodes of the season and really solidified Neelix as one of my favorite characters growing up. I joke about him being rather useless, (which let’s be frank, he isn’t all that useful) but honestly he is just a well written multilayered character that helps to make Star Trek the vast and incredibly interesting franchise that it is.
Interestingly, my memory of Jetrel’s attempt to bring back the victims of Rinox was different. I vividly remember them recovering some of the victims and Jetrel remaining behind to continue his efforts. In my mind, Jetrel didn’t die in this episode but there was a whole sequel episode dealing with that. I guess that was some mental fan fiction on my part.
On a more serious note, For more information on the Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki I recommend the Atomic Heritage Foundation website that dives in to the devastation left after this event. The effects of this event are still felt to this day with the descendants of the bombing facing discrimination in Japan causing much of their personal histories to remain concealed.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, 37 remaining.
- We see the Doctor (EMH) use his personal deactivation abilities for the first time. It seems Janeway followed through with her promise.
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: Season Finale! Learning Curve
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Late To The Game 5/4/2020
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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