VOY: S4E12: “Mortal Coil”

In which Neelix actually does a lot around here, Seven plays Herbert West, and Chakotay is a Navajo Ledge-Talker.

"Keep insisting on cooking like this and you're going to lose your senate seat."

“Keep insisting on cooking like this and you’re going to lose your senate seat.”

Today we’re following Neelix as he cheers on Harry’d late-night study session with some mega-coffee. Chakotay wanders in to ask Neelix for his expertise regarding protomatter, followed by Seven complaining about the spice-load of his cooking. After he invites her to the family festival, Samantha Wildman asks Neelix to come over and help get her daughter Naomi to sleep. Neelix does an impressive amount of non-official duties around the ship. To get an obstinate child to go to sleep, he tells her about the Great Forest, which is pretty clearly the Talaxian version of Heaven, or the Elysian Fields, although he doesn’t quite describe it as an afterlife.

While looking for a containment cylinder for his protomatter, Neelix finds out from Seven that the Kazon, even at registry number 329, were too biologically and technologically humdrum for the Borg to bother assimilating. Ouch. Off he goes, and on the expedition Paris asks him to institute a pizza day. They beam a small quantity of the unstable protomatter into a container, but the transporter set off the rest of it off, and Neelix is hit by lightning and killed. His brain’s been scrambled and denatured, and thus ends Neelix.

The shuttle was blown off course and basically wrecked, so Voyagerhas to come to the rescue, and beam them all to sick bay. What comes next is full of self-recrimination and Janeway dedicated a week of mourning, as is the Talaxian custom. Into this scene, Seven arrives to ask if his brain pathways are still structurally sound, and offers to ‘reactivate’ him using some medical knowledge gleaned from a more advanced species. Hey, do you think the Borg and the Vidiians ever met? That’d be an interesting accord. I digress, she’ll introduce borg nanoprobes, suitably modified, into his system and, if this works, ending any possibility that we’ll be able to take a ‘weird disease’ plotline seriously ever again. Janeway doesn’t know about this, because she’s read Pet Sematary and would rather Neelix not come back at all than Come Back Wrong. Thus, this episode accidentally presages Anti-Vax moms who’d rather a dead kid than one with autism. In the end, though, Janeway orders the procedure to go forward, because even Janeway’s not that bad, and Neelix could, in fact, get deader.

The nanoprobes are doing their work quickly and successfully, and he comes back to life with a lot of questions. My first question is why ‘world’ record is in the Doctor’s lexicon instead of Federation record, or ‘quadrant’ record or even no modifier at all rather than one that has negative applicability. Am I nitpicking? Anyway, at the moment Neelix’s body is still being run by the nanoprobes, and we’re not sure yet that his body will be able to take over functioning autonomosly, so he’s going to be on nanoprobe injections for a while. Not only that, it was all for nothing, as the protomatter destabilized. Janeway tells him to take it easy, but getting back to his quarters, his primary thoughts are for why his sister Alixia wasn’t with him after his death.

Seven discusses the perplexing humanoid attitudes toward mortality. When a Borg drone dies, its memories and experiences live on in the Collective. Now that she’s cut off from that collective, she has to face her own mortality, and very clearly shrinks away from it. Some of her memories will live on in the Collective, but nothing after she was freed.

Thus Neelix became the first person ever to watch himself star in a snuff film.

Thus Neelix became the first person ever to watch himself star in a snuff film.

Torres found a possible reason why the transporter exploded the protomatter, and Chakotay created a simulation of the accident to see if they missed anything, because simulations are magic and can tell you things you didn’t program into them. During the simulation, Chakotay finds a problem with the transporter buffer, which would have been logged. Then Neelix gets to watch himself get zapped right in the chest. He also, finally, relates to Chakotay that nothing happened to him after wards. Not the Great Forest, not his family, nothing. Because he’s saying this to Chakotay, the Commander tries to comfort him and make excuses, but it doesn’t seem to be helping.

And on that note we cut into the Talaxian festival of family. Tuvok is giving the ceremony this year, since Neelix can’t bring himself to do it. Since the speech is all about the family that Neelix doesn’t have any more and no longer has any faith that he’ll see again, he’s uncomfortable over in the corner, and has a little Moment once he becomes the focus of attention. Chakotay follows up with Neelix with an offer of counsel, and Janeway tries to help Seven join in on a conversation with no further guidance than ‘chime in.’ It turns out that Borg child-rearing practices are not a great topic of conversation. Even the Doctor is taken by it.

Neelix leaves the party to tuck Naiomi in, and she asks for another story about the Great Forest. His heart’s not in it, but he’s not letting on to the kid. I’m a little annoyed that it took this long to get an episode where Neelix gets depth and complexity beyond a Tragic Backstory about a bunch of stupid insecurities. Speaking of stupid insecurities, Neelix is in the stage where he’s pissed off at the focus of his disillusionment and cursing Seven for bringing him back. During this fit of rage, he starts to die again as his body starts to reject the probes.

They managed to fix the issue, but there’s no guarantee it won’t happen again, and Neelix might have to live with this forever. When he wakes up, Neelix asks Chakotay to help him take a spirit journey. Neelix’s focus items are reminders of his sister, of Kes, and of the Guiding Tree, the center of the Great Forest. With these, and Chakotay’s sub-harmonic meditative biofeedback advice. Chakotay sends him to his happy place, which turns out to be Voyager‘s mess hall, during the family festival, except Alixia is there. He follows her out and into the Great Forest. Once he gets there, she tells him that the Great Forest is just a manifestation of the fear of death. Apparently, the nanoprobes are making for a pretty awful high. After Alixia disintigrates, the forest darkets and turns stormy and he finds his corpse. His visions all tell him that since he’s dead, he ‘knows what he has to do’ which is probably to off himself.

In that light, there’s something very ominous about the way he starts to go around apologizing for his outburst at Seven. She exhibits some understanding of social graces, but not quite enough to call whoever (aside form Neelix) serves as ship’s counsilor when he starts throwing around his relationship with Voyager as a past-tense. Chakotay drops by the mess hall to find out why Neelix hasn’t been keeping up with the vision-quest progress, and the rapidity with which Neelix capitulates says volumes about his intentions on being around to make it to their next meeting that afternoon. He even leaves a thank-you message to Tuvok, before trying to set the transporter to beam himself into the nebula.

Pictured; Mary Hemmingway, about to ask Ernest why that necktie is shaped like a shotgun.

Pictured; Mary Hemmingway, about to ask Ernest why that necktie is shaped like a shotgun.

Because he’s trying to use tech to do it, Ops is able to block his transport out into the nebula. He had a contingency plan, but it gives Chakotay enough time to get to Neelix and spin a couple of ways that the vision quest isn’t a call to suicide, but in the end it’s Samantha Wildman and, by proxy, little Naomi who calls Neelix back to his life. Duty calls.


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