The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Mortal Coil

Whilst on a mission to collect unstable protomatter, Neelix is killed. With the help of Borg nanoprobes, however, Seven of Nine is able to revive him – an unprecedented eighteen hours after his death. Far from embracing his new lease of life, however, Neelix finds himself deeply troubled – for he has no memory of visiting the afterlife he has always believed in.

Whilst faith in the afterlife might sound more like a story for the Bajorans and DS9, it turns up here on Voyager. Although it’s not a story that Roddenberry’s Star Trek would ever have explored, it feels like it has potential. Imagine a character who lost their family at a young age, and dealt with the trauma by firmly believing that he would be reunited with them in the afterlife – only to have a not-so-near death experience and discover that there may not be an afterlife at all. From such a traumatic crisis of faith, that character might not be able to embrace life as they did before, to the point of becoming suicidal. Powerful stuff, eh?

Well, maybe it could be – if the protagonist wasn’t the irritating Talaxian everyone loves to hate – Neelix. Whenever Neelix is having difficulties, he manages to make himself as unsympathetic as possible – yes, people can and do become angry and hard to deal with in difficult circumstances, but when it’s Neelix, he comes across as an unmitigated jerk. Even when you know he’s going through a lot, it’s hard to care. And besides, even though we know that his family died and that he still misses them, he’s never once before mentioned this oh-so-important Great Forest afterlife. To be honest, it sounds like the kind of story I used to make up when I was eight years old.

If anything, it’s Seven of Nine who steals the show here. Whilst Neelix is being a shouting, whingy git, her cold brand of dispassionately failing to rise to his bait is actually rather refreshing.

Talaxian Factbox

Talaxians believe that their afterlife is a place called the Great Forest. The Guiding Tree at its centre is where they will be reunited with their friends and family – assume said friends and family are dead Talaxians, I suppose.

Points of Note

  • Protomatter, which debuted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and then appeared several times in DS9, makes its first and only appearance on Voyager here.
  • Even though Seven claims that Borg drones can be revived up to 73 hours after death, and indeed revives Neelix a mere eighteen hours after his demise, this technique is never again used or mentioned. It seems like Lieutenant Carey, among others, could surely have been saved in this way.
  • The Doctor claims that Neelix has broken a world record by being revived so long after his death. Surely he means a galactic record.
  • Seven of Nine reveals that the Borg did not bother to assimilate the Kazon, as they would have detracted from perfection. Surely at the very least, they could have assimilated them to be cannon fodder. Besides, I thought the Borg aimed to assimilate everyone they met, in order to improve perceived quality of life for all.
  • This is the first episode in which we see Naomi Wildman since she was a small baby. Despite being about eighteen months, she already seems at least twice that age. The speed of her growth is remarked upon by her mother, and is presumably attributed to Ktarians maturing more quickly than humans. It’s Alexander all over again!
  • If Tom is so desperate for pizza, why doesn’t he use his replicator rations to get some? Or program the holodeck with a pizzeria?

Lost, crashed or destroyed shuttlecraft running total: 11

Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 7

Number of times the entire crew gets kicked off the ship: 2

Number of times Voyager gets destroyed: 2

Summary – Mortal Coil: In which Neelix dies, and still doesn’t die.

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