Neelix goes on his first away mission. He enthusiastically gives his all, but doesn't expect that to include donating his lungs to the Vidiians. Or being condemned to a life spent staring at the ceiling of Sickbay while the Doctor fires one assistant and recruits another.



Plot Synopsis

Janeway walks the corridors of Voyager with Chakotay, discussing preparations for mining the raw dilithium they hope to find at the rogue planetoid which is their next destination. According to Chakotay, B'Elanna Torres already has plans for converting the auxiliary impulse reactor into a refinery. Janeway, relaxed and inclined to be amused by Torres's unconventional methods, sanctions the project subject to regular reports, and invites Chakotay to breakfast. Her good mood extends even to a little whimsical fantasising as to what that breakfast might consist of, but the grim reality is that Voyager's energy reserves are so depleted that the crew are reduced to eating from ration packs. And Chakotay, having already consumed his rations, says that he'll see her on the bridge.

Entering what should be her private dining room, to keep her date with Ration Pack #5, Janeway finds that it has changed a little since her last visit. To her surprise and amazement she walks into a galley, with Neelix cooking furiously and serving up food to the crew in the adjoining mess hall. He's pleased and proud of his ingenuity in scavenging the equipment and supplies to create this, as his solution to the food rationing problem. It didn't, of course, occur to him to check with anybody whether it was acceptable to go ahead and create the galley, so he's somewhat taken aback when Janeway points out that the room in question already has a designated function. It is with relief that she acknowledges a hail from the bridge; it means she can postpone any immediate decision about what to do about the well meaning Neelix.

Voyager is now in orbit around the rogue planetoid, and is picking up some promisingly strong dilithium signatures. The strongest readings originate from 10-20 kilometres below the surface, where there appears to be a network of subterranean caves and tunnels, with a breathable atmosphere. Janeway asks Chakotay to take an away team down to do a preliminary geological analysis, and Neelix begs to be allowed to come along. Janeway must have been more surprised than upset by his galley, since her mood is still good enough for her to give amused consent when he makes his sales pitch.

Chakotay, Harry Kim and Neelix beam down into the tunnels. They split up, with Chakotay instructing them to keep an open comm channel at all times and not to wander too far from the beam down point. Chakotay and Kim's findings puzzle them; despite continued readings indicating the presence of dilithium, there are no obvious dilithium formations. When Neelix calls in to say that he has found a large cavern with massive dilithium readings, Chakotay orders him to stay where he is until he can join him. But Neelix doesn't understand that this is an order; the cave is right in front of him, so he wanders in... and finds no dilithium.

By now Chakotay has decided that he's had enough of this fool's errand, and he starts to order a rendezvous to beam back up to the ship. But Neelix interrupts. He's getting unusual readings from a rock face in his cave, a bioelectrical signature about two metres into the rock face. Chakotay repeats his order for Neelix to return, but Neelix is too intent on his discovery to listen. He's found a man made tunnel, and he is looking for the lifeform that emerged from it when the being in question stuns him from behind. Chakotay and Kim arrive in time to find the Talaxian going into shock, and order an emergency beam out directly to sickbay. The Doctor acts to stabilise Neelix's condition as he slips into a coma, but says that he will die within the hour. His lungs have been removed.

Shortly afterwards, the population of the sickbay has increased by two. While Tom Paris pushes medical equipment around in a way that makes his function in this environment look suspiciously more like that of a porter than of either nurse or medic, Chakotay briefs Janeway on what little he knows of the circumstances of Neelix's misfortunes. He passes on the Doctor's theory that some kind of transporter was used to beam Neelix's lungs directly out of his body. A concerned Kes arrives, and this information is repeated to her also. The Doctor tells her that the blood gas infuser he is using will keep Neelix alive for another 47 minutes, but that the only hope that he has for survival beyond that time is to get his own lungs back since the Talaxian respiratory system is too complex to replicate.

This makes up Janeway's mind for her and she announces her intention to take an away team back to the planet in search of the perpetrator. She and the other members of the original away team exit sickbay, and the Doctor tends to his patient, taking a few impatient sideswipes at the medical inadequacies of his assistant as he does so. His manner towards Kes is a little more tolerant and sympathetic however. When she refuses to leave, he merely requests that she try not to get in the way.

Back on the planetoid, Kim has identified the exact spot where Neelix was attacked, for the benefit of those who were not present earlier. Studying the rock face which Neelix's tricorder says he was scanning at the time, they see only solid rock but are alert enough to every suspicious circumstance for Janeway to detect a minute heat differential in one section of the wall. They direct their phasers at it and fire, disabling the force field which was the source of the temperature change. With that barrier down and its false image of an uninterrupted rock face dispensed with, they discover a hidden corridor which they enter to investigate.

In sickbay, Tom Paris is a little alarmed by the readings he is monitoring, and tells the Doctor that he thinks Neelix's cellular toxicity is rising. The Doctor, interpreting the readings with the infinitely greater ease of one programmed to it, confirms his diagnosis and raps out the command for an instrument which Tom doesn't know quite where to find. Which naturally earns him yet another black mark and further sarcasm from the hologram. Meanwhile, Kes is pursuing another train of thought: she wants to donate one of her lungs to Neelix. The Doctor explains, as kindly as he is able, that this is impossible since neither she nor anybody else aboard the ship is a compatible donor for a Talaxian. But discussing the subject of substitute lungs does give him an idea, and he asks the computer for Neelix's identification matrix from the transporter matrix.

Paris queries this, since the Doctor has already stated that it is impossible to replicate replacement lungs, so the Doctor explains that he has something else in mind: holographic lungs. His gleeful demonstration at Paris's expense of the theory behind his idea is interrupted by Kes, who cuts straight to the point: she wants to know how dangerous all of this highly experimental stuff is for Neelix. The Doctor is equally straightforward in his reply, telling her that in spite of the risks this technique involves, it is Neelix's only chance at survival. But it is left to Tom Paris to empathise with her when she is disturbed by the grim prospect of the immobile and bedbound existence which is all the Doctor can offer Neelix, and through comforting her and encouraging her to focus on the positive aspects - that where there's life there is still hope - it is ultimately he who gets her consent to proceed.

Meanwhile, back in the caves, the away team have finally run the source of the dilithium signature to ground. Disappointingly, it turns out to be the by-product of the dilithium matrix that the power systems in the hidden tunnel and chambers run on, and other than that power source there is no dilithium to be had. Their mining expedition is a bust, and they have nothing to show for it except an incapacitated crew member. Well, apart the biological repository they have just stumbled across, since it seems that their elusive enemy goes in for spare parts surgery in a big way. When Janeway detects recent lifesigns and Harry discovers another exit from the chamber, they pick up his trail. In pursuit, they catch sight of their foe and even exchange phaser fire, but are foiled when he throws up a defensive forcefield.

Almost immediately, Chakotay contacts them from Voyager to inform them that an alien ship has just been detected leaving the planet. Janeway orders a tractor beam to be put on it, only to learn that the ship has already gone to warp. So she orders a pursuit course to be laid in while her team are beaming back, and Voyager follows it with all possible speed.

Which is probably just as well, as Neelix is less than impressed by the idea of his new holographic lungs. He wakes bewildered and fretful, to find himself alive but condemned to an existence as a potentially permanent resident of sickbay, unable to move more than a couple of microns in any direction. It's small wonder that he's petulant enough to find fault with sickbay's decor. Nor that, when Paris is recalled to his bridge duties, he bewails the fact that Paris is being so sympathetic and supportive towards Kes and voices his suspicions that the helmsman might have an ulterior motive for his kindness. In other words, his insecurities are surfacing in a big way. Kes dismisses Neelix's notion that Tom might be a rival for her affections, but Neelix is in the mood to feel martyred and if he can't use one excuse he'll find another. So he instructs her to get on with her life and not to worry about him, just to let him die. Kes does her best to soothe him and to calm his fears that she might have better things to do with her life than look out for him, but shortly afterwards she is chased away by the Doctor. Visiting hours are over.

Down on the planet, Janeway picked up a device that the alien abandoned in his haste to get away. Tuvok and Torres report to her that their examination of it has revealed it to be a much superior version of the medical tricorder, which can analyse the cellular structure of a person right down to their DNA and then stun them and extract the organs it has just catalogued. Janeway is still pondering upon the implications of an alien race who have developed technology specifically to steal organs from others, when the ship they are pursuing drops out of warp in the vicinity of a large asteroid, which it then enters. Kim reports that he cannot scan the interior, but that the neutronium alloys his sensors detect suggest that it might have been created artificially. When Paris locates the passageway into which the ship ducked, courtesy of its give-away ion trail, Janeway orders him to follow it in, despite Tuvok's cautions. To her, giving Neelix a chance for survival outweighs the risks. And that the risks are extreme is evident in the fact that she orders a red alert and the shields to maximum before they follow the alien.

Feeling alone, ignored and more than a little sorry for himself in sickbay, Neelix calls out for the Doctor's attention. He has an itch or two that need scratching, but what he really craves is company. The Doctor, who has work to get on with, doesn't see the need but Neelix continues, getting ever more maudlin about his future prospects, and working himself up into a temper tantrum. He begins to hyperventilate, and then to panic. The Doctor orders him to calm down, but Neelix is beyond listening to reason, and the Doctor doesn't have the necessary sensitivity to the situation to be able to persuade him. All he can do is pick up a hypospray and give Neelix the temporary oblivion of unconsciousness.

Edging gingerly into the interior of the asteroid, taking it slow on aft thrusters only because of the extreme narrowness of the passageway, Voyager makes steady progress until the passageway opens up into a vast chamber. At which point the viewscreen reveals a strange and confusing sight: hundreds of ships like Voyager and like the alien seem to populate the void. Kim reports that they are seeing the image of the two real ships reflecting off the walls of the chamber, multiplying a hundredfold until it is impossible to discern which might be the real alien ship. Their eyes are useless and there is too much electromagnetic interference for the scanners to be of any help. Paris suggests that they continue to follow the alien ship's ion trail, and although Chakotay cautions that it may have laid a fake ion trail as a lure to trap them in the chamber, it is decided to try precisely that.

Having been unable to calm Neelix himself, the Doctor realises that he needs to co-opt someone with more ability in that line. So he calls in Kes, who is only too happy to keep Neelix company, although she soon finds herself offering comfort to the doctor rather than the patient. The Doctor is as inclined to dwell on his failures as he was to crow about his earlier success. He is an emergency program, being operated on a long term basis for which he was never designed, and having to cope with medical scenarios which are also outside the scope of his original planning. Medical and surgical techniques he has no problem with, but the human element - support and counselling, coping with emotional problems - are something he was never designed to deal with. In a way he's having his own emotional problems in coming to terms with the fact that his vast existing knowledge is no longer enough, and that he is going to have to adapt and learn more and different things. Kes, as always, treats him as if he were any other sentient being and not just the holographic tool that the rest of the crew regard him as. She compliments him on what he has already achieved, rather than dwelling on what he still has to learn. She draws a parallel between the human process of learning and his own ability to store and process data, and gently suggests that he will simply have to learn in the same way as anybody else. The Doctor always responds well to flattery, even as subtle as Kes's is, but he is equally struck by the truth of her arguments and the genuine friendliness of her interaction with himself. Enough so to notice that he has found himself a potential medic who is both interested and appreciative of what the job entails, and therefore rather more suited to it than Tom Paris... and to ask her whether she has ever considered a career in medicine.

Voyager is in trouble. A dampening field within the chamber is bleeding energy slowly but inexorably from the warp nacelles. Janeway orders Torres to shut down the warp core and switch to emergency power, but these measures have no effect. Kim does manage to pinpoint the source of the dampening field however, and Janeway considers options. Tuvok advises against her first thought of locking phasers and firing at the source, considering that the reflective nature of the chamber walls makes the risk of Voyager itself accidentally getting hit by a ricochet blast too high. But Chakotay comes up with a slight variation on this plan: reduce phaser power to a harmless low level and send out a continuous beam which could bounce off the walls until it hit something non reflective, specifically the real alien ship. Janeway approves his thought, and they make use of their phaser search beam until Kim detects the ship. Voyager manoeuvres closer to it, and Janeway orders the two lifesigns they detect aboard to be beamed to Voyager. Then she, Tuvok and a security team head to the transporter room to greet their guests.

The Vidiians probably aren't at all what Janeway expected. They talk intelligently and reasonably about themselves and their motives, but there's no getting around the fact that they are hideously ugly to human eyes. Ravaged by the persistent virus which infects their race, what little of their skin that can be seen is diseased and decaying. They explain that the phage from which they suffer consumes their bodies, and that their only answer to this creeping death is to replace the organs and tissue as it fails. The disease adapts to all attempts to destroy it and, despite having vastly superior medical technology to Voyager, their immuno-technology cannot keep up. Thousands die every day.

Their story is enough to give Janeway pause, but she is still angry at the thought of their stated mission - to gather replacement organs - and somewhat revolted by it. This race of artists, educators and explorers has been reduced to the level of stealing body parts, and while they might claim that they take them from the dead wherever possible, it remains true that Neelix was very much alive when he was attacked, and that Voyager and its entire crew has been lured into the asteroid, presumably with the intent of adding all of them to the Vidiians biological repository at the first opportunity. Janeway is sympathetic to their plight, but at the same time she strongly disapproves of their methods of counteracting it. She demands Neelix's lungs back and the two Vidiians look sheepishly at each other. The medical scientist of the two, Dereth, explains that this is no longer possible. The lungs have already been biochemically adapted and fitted into the body of his companion.

Which leaves Janeway with a dilemma which does not please her. She is faced with the choice of taking back the lungs from the Vidiian, essentially killing him in the process, so that Neelix may live... or to condemn Neelix to his present bleak existence for as long as he can survive it. The Vidiian, Motura, apologises to her, and offers up his life. But Janeway, having pursued the body thieves this far, finds herself checkmated. Her own morals will not allow her to kill Motura, even to save her own crewman. And it would be impractical to lock them up in the brig for the rest of the journey back to the Alpha Quadrant. So she sees no option other than to set them free with a warning and a threat that any further transgressions against her crew by the Vidiians will be met with the deadliest force.

Dereth seems to feel himself dismissed, but Motura interrupts and asks to see Neelix. He at least is grateful that Janeway has spared their lives, and feels that there is a debt to be repaid. Since Vidiian medical technology is superior to that of the Federation, he suggests that they should see whether there is anything they can do to help Neelix.

Having scanned Neelix - and expressed his amazement at the primitive nature of the technology keeping him alive - Dereth announces that they are all compatible donors for a lung transplant. The Doctor questions his statement, pointing out that Talaxian physiology is radically different from that of anybody else in the crew, and that Neelix's immune system would reject the donated lung immediately. Dereth merely informs him that his surgical knowledge is inferior, and that they will simply adapt Neelix's immune system to prevent it. And Kes volunteers herself as donor.

After the operation, Kes awakens to find the Doctor at her bedside. In a hushed voice that shows that he is indeed capable of learning, he tells her that it was a success and that Neelix is asleep and breathing for himself with his new lung. And then he goes on to tell her that he has spoken to Captain Janeway and obtained her permission to train Kes as a medical assistant.

Meanwhile, Neelix is no doubt dreaming happy dreams. The Captain has promised him that he'll be allowed to keep his kitchen, after all.


Random Reflections

We may as well begin by acknowledging at the outset that this episode bears a close kinship with TOS's Spock's Brain, and get it over with! Fortunately, it's only a superficial kinship. Both episodes have certain plot elements in common: the theft of an internal organ of vital importance, using medical technology far more advanced than that available to the crew, and the determined hunting down of the thieves to demand back the purloined organ in order to save the life of the crewman in question. And then, thankfully, they part company.

The highlight of Doctor McCoy's innovative medical science in Spock's Brain was his radio-controlled Spock. Glossing over the fact that if he didn't have the knowledge to replace the brain without the aid of the Teaching Machine it's unlikely he could have connected up enough of the right nerve endings to have made the mindless Spock walk around without bumping into the furniture, it has to be said that the holographic Doctor's inspiration to fit Neelix with a pair of holographic lungs has a little more plausibility to it. We already know that holographic technology in the twenty-fourth century is becoming ever more sophisticated, to the point where it can produce self aware, self programming creatures such as the Doctor himself. Given that, and the equally sophisticated technology of the transporters, where the most detailed information is available on the physical makeup of the crew, courtesy of the pattern buffers, and the major constraints become the power and computer memory to enable the holographic lungs.

Now it's obvious that there had to be limitations to the Doctor's solution to Neelix's problem, or there would be no dramatic necessity for finding Neelix's original lungs. If the replacement's as good as the real thing, why consume the ship's resources in pursuing it? But the limitations are sensibly drawn. The program is so complex and requires so many simultaneous calculations to keep it functioning that it can only adapt and redraw itself slowly in response to its surroundings. Hence the need to keep Neelix immobile, and minimise the work the program has to do. By some standards it's incredibly sophisticated, but by others it's crude and primitive, the limited best that the Doctor could come up with in the time available. Presumably if Neelix had remained reliant on the program indefinitely, he would have attempted to refine and improve upon it, perhaps even to the point of eventually giving Neelix the freedom to roam any part of the ship which was in possession of holo projectors.

On the other hand, it does occur to me that if the structure of Neelix's lungs is too complex for the replicators to reproduce, it ought also to be too complicated for the holographic projectors to do much the same. And, since the replacement lungs have by definition to be within Neelix's body, should it cause a problem that there's no light source inside there for them to be projected onto?

Where Phage really wins out over Spock's Brain though is in its portrayal of its alien villains. The Vidiians are no dumb savages out to annex a brain to tell them what to do for the next few thousand years. Instead, they are a very believable race dealing with a very believable problem, in the form of the phage that destroys their bodies. However selfish the way they use others to keep their problem at bay, their plight is desperate enough that it is possible to understand why they take such drastic measures, even if you cannot condone the gruesome nature of their actions, or how cheaply they value the lives of other races.

However, if the Vidiians cast their net so widely in their quest for replacement body parts, as later episodes suggest they do, it's difficult to understand why Neelix didn't seem to know about them prior to his near fatal encounter. You'd have expected the native guide to the Delta Quadrant to be a little more aware of such a well travelled and dangerous species.

The Vidiians' medical expertise is truly impressive. Not only do they think nothing of adapting Neelix's immune system and that of his new lung to prevent rejection, not only do they consider the different anatomical structure of Talaxian lungs from those of any other race on board to be a thing of trivial consequence, but they also permit a further complication in allowing the donor of the lung to be Kes. As a fellow native of the Delta Quadrant, it is possible that her Ocampan physiology may be more closely related to that of the Talaxians than, say, a human or a Vulcan. But it's also the case that she comes of a race whose expected lifespan is a scant nine years, which could cause complications later if Neelix's new lung were to mature at a more rapid rate than the rest of his body. We don't, of course, know precisely how long-lived Neelix's species is, but references to date seem to imply a lifespan of human proportions. He's lived several of Kes's lifetimes already, and certainly he seems to expect that he will both outlive Kes and live to see Voyager reach the Alpha Quadrant. Apparently the Vidiians don't seem to think it cause for concern that he might also outlive his replacement lung!

Neelix first started pitching for the job of cook back in Caretaker. Nobody took the hint, so he made a pre-emptive strike. But while Neelix's self appointed assignment is the source of many cheap jokes over the years of Voyager's journey, it makes sense for a lot of reasons. Firstly, it acts as a constant visual reminder that Voyager is a ship alone, and that while it is still a reasonably good life, good enough for alien races to cast envious eyes over the ship and for Kes and Neelix to be eager to sign on board, the ship's stores and supplies are finite. So, the crew have to rough it a little and eat what they're given rather than have their pick of the replicators' extensive choice of menus. They also have to eat in a communal place, rather than dine in solitary state in their cabins, and that interaction is an important and valuable one on a small ship which must inevitably have far fewer meeting areas than one the size of the Enterprise. It creates a little more of the group solidarity and camaraderie that's going to get them through their long journey; every group needs a scapegoat, and on long seafaring voyages that scapegoat was traditionally the cook! And the exotic nature of Neelix's concoctions, even his adaptations of traditional Alpha Quadrant dishes, are a further reminder that they're a long way from home. Things are done differently here, even the eating.



This is the first episode in which the Doctor gets to show off his talents, and indulge in more than just routine medical work. It's an important early step in his evolution from emergency medical program to an individual, as he demonstrates in his ability to create a new solution to a problem that he is more than the sum of his programming. From his vast database of medical knowledge he is able to extrapolate and to innovate. Perhaps his idea for the holographic lungs is actually no more than something thrown out by the random juggling of numbers, accumulating and processing data, adding a little transporter and hologram technology from the engineering database to his existing medical programming, but even if it is no more than that it demonstrates that this computer program has the capacity to learn and to be self programming. It also has the capacity for self-awareness, as the Doctor's conversations with Kes continue to prove.

It's reasonably obvious that Tom Paris is no happier to be the Doctor's assistant than the Doctor is to have him as one. Two things are immediately apparent: that such limited medical training as Tom got in his biochemistry classes at the Academy didn't equip him adequately for duty in a sickbay, and that he's itching to get back to the helm. But strangely enough however, he does have certain qualities which make him useful in his current position, although they are perhaps those of a counsellor or a nurse rather than a medic. It seems to be true of Paris that he is too sensitive for his own good. Mostly it makes him too thin skinned not to care what others think of him, which is probably at the heart of all his self-inflicted troubles. But it also makes him a sympathetic and compassionate listener, who is able to both comfort and encourage Kes in her distress over Neelix. Because, despite the reputation as a womaniser which he is beginning to build on the ship, his actions in this episode don't exactly justify Neelix's jealous fears of him. Far from pulling the plug on Neelix, he was the one who encouraged Kes to give her consent to the experimental techniques of the Doctor which are keeping the Talaxian alive. He obviously cares for Kes, but the support he lends her is that of a sympathetic friend, not a potential lover.

Funnily enough, the Doctor himself is coming to realise his lack of a bedside manner or sympathetic countenance, and is beginning to acknowledge the usefulness of those talents. He's blind to them in Paris however, although he does recognise them in Kes, perhaps because she is quite as likely to use them on the fretful medical hologram as on the patients and their nearest and dearest.

Neelix is seen in the earliest stages of jealousy in this episode; a theme that is to recur from time to time over the next year or so. Trapped in sickbay, he feels threatened and vulnerable, and is even more prone than usual to giving way to his inner fears. Ever since coming aboard Voyager he's been busily creating himself useful little niches everywhere - native guide, cook, dilithium mining expert - and is now having to face the fact that they need an able bodied crewman to maintain and defend them. Acutely aware that his usefulness and value to the crew has been severely compromised by his incapacitation, he overreacts and assumes that he is therefore of value to nobody. Perhaps it's too early in his acquaintance with his new Alpha Quadrant friends for him to be able to appreciate that Janeway is a matriarch who is fiercely protective of her own. Once invited into the Voyager family, you're there for keeps, regardless of the level of contribution you are able to bring to the crew.

On the other hand, he really ought to know better than to include Kes in the ranks of those he imagines will have no further use for him. It may be difficult to see exactly what Kes sees in Neelix, in terms of their relationship, but she has plenty of grounds for gratitude and loyalty to Neelix even if we discount the romantic element of their association entirely. Neelix was the one who instigated Kes's rescue from the Kazon, and who was her friend even before that. He is also the only other Delta Quadrant native on board the ship, which gives them things in common which are not shared by anyone else. And Kes, who shows a genuine interest and liking for just about everyone, is not the sort of person who would give up on a friend just because he was experiencing hard times or personal misfortunes. She has a gift for making friends with people who are in need of friends - Neelix, the Doctor, even Tom Paris - and for sticking with them through thick and thin. For Kes, despite her fragile looks and serene calm, is a very strong willed and determined personality who does not give up easily.



One of the accusations that was frequently laid at the door of the fledgling Voyager was that its stories were derivative and unoriginal, rehashing stories that had already been told in the three other series. The implication seemed to be that if the story had been told once already, there was no point in telling it again.

While there's a certain amount of truth to that, it's also true that there are only a certain number of stories to be told. Over 300 episodes of Star Trek had been produced by the time Voyager was launched, so some repetition of theme and plot is pretty well inevitable. The trick in those circumstances is to attempt to improve on the original, and in that at least Phage is an unqualified success. Certainly it does borrow from Spock's Brain, but it brings its own innovations and twists to the basic plot.

It is Neelix's story, obviously, but it is also the Doctor's. Neelix gets to show the scared underside of the normally cheery individual who strives so hard to be well liked... and it's those hidden insecurities which I like best about him. But the Doctor is the one about whom we learn the most in this episode. We get to see both his brilliance and his insecurities, his annoyance at being pushed beyond the parameters of his programming and also his beginning to come to terms with it and to consider that it might be worth exploring a little.

It also introduces the Vidiians, one of the most interesting of the Delta Quadrant races, and one whose motivations are such as to need no flimsy pretexts upon which to bring them into conflict with the crew of Voyager time and again. A race of organ thieves is a gruesome enough concept to clothe any nemesis, but at the same time the Vidiians' plight is such that you can see why they do what they do, even if you can't condone it. They're a complex and complicated race of villains, and one of Voyager's best.

It's not a classic episode by any means, but it gives us a better understanding of Neelix and the Doctor, and establishes a stamping ground within the series for Kes, when she gets recruited to sickbay duties at the end of it. And bits of it - the sickbay scenes in particular - are a lot of fun.