The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Jetrel

Voyager is hailed by Haakonian scientist Ma’Bor Jetrel, the scientist responsible for developing the weapon that killed Neelix’s family and 300,000 of his people. Neelix is understandably disinclined to engage with Jetrel, who claims he is here to test Neelix for a terminal disease caused by fallout from that very weapon. Is Jetrel really trying to make amends for his previous actions, and can Neelix ever forgive him for what he did?

Remember Duet, a first season DS9 episode in which Kira had to confront a man claiming to be Gul Darhe’el, the man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Bajorans. It was a powerful episode, in which Kira was forced to examine her feelings towards the Cardassians, and come to realise that they aren’t one big faceless mass of evil. That episode worked, and is arguably one of DS9’s best instalments. This episode takes a similar concept, and does a far worse job.

As always, context is everything. The Cardassian Occupation was a well established part of the Star Trek universe way before Duet came along; in contrast, the horrors visited upon on the Talaxian people are something we only learn in this very episode. What’s more, this episode is not fronted by a likeable and sympathetic character, but by the Delta Quadrant’s most annoying alien – Neelix. As someone who dislikes Neelix, I find it difficult to sympathise with his internal anguish in this episode. He even gets off the hook for feeling bad about avoiding military service, as Kes praises him for being brave enough to risk death for something he believed in. Silly Kes – mere moments previously, Neelix admitted that he wasn’t really doing it out of objection to the war, but because he was afraid to fight. I don’t blame him for being afraid, but if he didn’t have a noble underlying cause, let’s not pretend he did.

Talaxian Factbox

Some years previously, the Talaxians were at war with the Haakonians. The war ended when the Haakonians deployed the metreon cascade on Rinax – Talax’s moon. The colony was destroyed and 300,000 people died, including Neelix’s family. Many of those who survived the initial attack later died of radiation poisoning, as did their rescuers. Talax surrendered to the Haakonians after the attack.

Other observations

  • Neelix continues to be a prick, pointing out that he always dreaded the fact that he would outlive his beloved Kes, but that a terminal illness would mean he would no longer have to worry about that. Does he not care that Kes would have to see him die of a horrible illness? I guess not.
  • The Doctor is now able to deactivate himself. Unfortunately, this relaxed security system seems to mean that now anyone can deactivate him, even if they are not a member of the crew.
  • Even if Jetrel could reconstitute the bodies of the Talaxians who died, surely they would just be lifeless shells – unless their consciousnesses are also present in the cloud, and the transporter is able to lock on and reintegrate them.

Summary – Jetrel: In which Neelix is diagnosed with a terminal illness, but it turns out to be a false hope.

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