The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Phage

Whilst investigating a rogue planetoid said to be rich in dilithium, Neelix is attacked by a mysterious alien who removes his lungs. Despite the seemingly fatal nature of the situation, the Doctor is able to keep Neelix using holographic lungs – as long as Neelix remains confined to his bed in sickbay for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Janeway leads the search for the aliens who stole the lungs, in the hopes of retrieving the organs.

Just four episodes in, and we’re already forced to endure an episode about Neelix, a man so annoyingly durable that even the removal of his lungs isn’t enough to kill him off. There are some impotant developments here for Neelix and Kes’s roles on the ship, but it comes at a price – that of Neelix being a complete and utter prick for the entire time he’s confined to sickbay. I get that losing your lungs and being stuck in a restraint is a big thing, and not something you’d wish on anybody, but for this kind of story to work, you do have to feel a degree of sympathy for the afflicted character. With Neelix, all you really want is for the incident to have been fatal.

Alien factbox: the Vidiians

Alongside the Kazon, the Vidiians are one of the earliest antagonist races. They were once a peaceful and accomplished people, but thanks to ‘the Phage’, a disease which ravages their bodies, they have had to dedicate their entire culture to medical research and the harvestingof alien organs.

  • The Vidiians appear to have some amazing method for getting around organ rejection without needing immuno-suppression. To be fair, this is addressed with some technobabble when the time comes to transplant a new lung into Neelix.
  • Are the stolen alien organs also susceptible to the Phage once transplanted into a Vidiian? Essentially, does each individual only need one transplant per organ, or a constant supply of new organs?
  • If Dereth’s job is to find organs for Motura, who performs the same duty for Dereth himself? Is Motura a higher ranking person, who thus gets someone to look out for him instead of getting his hands dirty himself? Maybe Dereth has lots of clients for whom he has to fulfil organ requests.

Other points

  • This episode introduces Neelix’s galley, from which he will serve many meals of dubious quality over the course of the next seven seasons.
  • Kes also decides to start her medical training with the Doctor.
  • I did some quick reading on lung transplants from living donors after this episode, and it seems that the procedure is to take a lobe of one lung from two different donors, and give these lobes to the recipient. In this way, neither donor loses an entire lung, and there’s no long term impact on their health. Since the Vidiians could make anyone a compatible donor, Kes’s quality of life has just been greatly reduced for no good reason, as this two donor method could have easily been used.
  • The Doctor says that Neelix’s lungs are too complex to replicate – is organ replication possible now? It’s been some years since the genetronic replicator from Ethics, so maybe it is now possible to replicate organs in some cases.
  • The Doctor seems unimpressed when Neelix suggests that he try singing, but in future, the Doctor becomes quite enamoured of opera.
  • Neelix’s jealousy of Paris starts here. I hate this storyline, as it suggests that he regards Kes as mere property who can be stolen away from him, without any will of her own. I bet the only reason Kes stays with him is that she doesn’t know any better.
  • Seska has now been assigned to Engineering.

Summary – Phage: In which Neelix loses his lungs and still doesn’t die.

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