Episode Guide/Review by Charlynn Schmiedt
Season 1, Episode 14
Stardate 48832.1 (2371)
Episode 14 of 168 Released in Star Trek: Voyager
Episode 14 of 168 Produced in Star Trek: Voyager
Production Number: 115
Original airdate: May 15, 1995
Directed by Kim Friedman
Teleplay by Jack Klein, Karen Klein and Kenneth Biller
Story by James Thornton and Scott Nimerfro
A Haakonian scientist named Jetrel informs Neelix he has a fatal illness that is a consequence of the Metreon Cascade, a devastating blast that killed hundreds of thousands on a Talaxian moon fifteen years ago. Neelix cannot hide his anger toward Jetrel because it was he who developed the technology responsible for the Metreon Cascade, and therefore Neelix blames Jetrel for the loss of his entire family, who was killed in the blast.
The Metreon Cascade is essentially a retelling of what happened when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Like the Japanese, the Talaxians surrendered to the people that created the devastating weapon. In this episode, Jetrel wants to treat Neelix for what we could compare to radiation poisoning.
We have two powerful points of view in this story. We have Jetrel, who did his work in the name of science, but with consequences that caused massive death and suffering. On the other side we have Neelix, a victim of that suffering who can’t understand why someone like Jetrel would want to help a race of people he inadvertently killed en masse fifteen years prior.
Jetrel takes on a heavy burden as the man who developed the technology that made the Metreon Cascade possible. He makes a great point that if it wouldn’t have been him, it would have been someone else, just as if Oppenheimer hadn’t split the atom in the 1940s. Both Neelix and Jetrel endure their own personal hell due to the consequences of the Metreon Cascade. Despite being on opposite ends of the blow, they are more similar than they think.
In addition, we find out Neelix is in a huge fight with himself because he was hiding from the defense forces on Talax. He sees the action as cowardly because of the loss of his family. Behind Neelix’s cheery exterior is a man who has a painful past that tortures him. Neelix projects his viewpoint so viciously onto Jetrel because he’s really angry at himself, and it’s nice that Kes confronts him on that. Once Neelix starts facing the reality of the situation, he forgives Jetrel—not because he forgives Jetrel for what he did, but because he has realized that his guilt about his own actions is the root cause of his anger.
It makes some sense that the Talaxians would be a race of scavengers scattered throughout space after having one of their moons destroyed 15 years ago. The small piece of dialogue that reveals this gives the Talaxians some much-needed backstory.
This is a rare instance where Kes and Neelix’s relationship works. Kes has no problem breaking through Neelix’s protectiveness and doesn’t flinch when she sees a vulnerable person underneath. She’s there to nurture him, just as it should be in a real relationship. It’s the first time we see these two together with any depth, and it’s welcome.
It’s about time Neelix got some depth to his character.
One failed attempt and the prospect of retrieving Talaxians lost in the Metreon Cascade is abandoned? Not only does this seem against Janeway’s principles, but Starfleet’s as well. Jetrel appealed to Janeway’s scientific side so much in this story; surely she sees the value of continued research on a project like this. Yes, it does set Voyager’s mission of getting home aside, but I just don’t buy how this was let go so quickly. Of course, we’re given no sign that the research is pursued by anybody else, if it in fact was.
OF COURSE Jetrel becomes malicious toward the end of the episode. I think this was a misguided attempt at making Neelix look like the good guy, and I’d rather they hadn’t taken this direction.
They left one important thing out of the very end of the teaser: the scream of rage Neelix must have let out just after he excused himself from the bridge.
I find the body language humorous in the scene where Janeway and Kes convince Neelix to undergo the screening. He later acknowledges them “ganging up” on him as he “surrenders.”
Forget her duties as a medic in Sickbay. I think Kes should become a therapist. She effortlessly brings out the truth from Neelix and helps him understand it. She’s previously helped the Doctor come to realizations about himself as well. She could have performed well as the ship’s counselor.
“Nothing you tell me could make this day any more disturbing than it’s been.” —Neelix to Janeway
“Did you ever think that maybe your wife was right? That you had become a monster?” “Yes. The day we tested the Cascade. When I saw that blinding light, brighter than a thousand suns, I knew at that moment exactly what I had become.” —Neelix and Jetrel
“I’m simply a scientist. Yes, I developed the weapon. But it was the government and the military leaders who decided to use it, not I.”
“That must be a very convenient distinction for you. Does it help you sleep at night?” —Jetrel and Neelix
“Captain, please tell Dr. Jetrel that I am touched by his tender concern for my state of health, but that I’d rather be immersed in a pit of Krallinian eels than be examined by him.” —Neelix
Neelix’s past. What we learn about Neelix will resurface here and there.
It is no surprise that Trek took on a subject like the consequences of dropping the atomic bomb, since several other TV shows and movies have done the same thing. As well as the character of Jetrel was set up, I was disappointed when he was transformed into a desperate criminal who couldn’t let anything stand in his way toward the end of the episode. Nothing was wrong with his character until that point. I liked him as the well-meaning scientist whose creation transformed him into the flawed man we saw when we met him. I was also let down with how rushed the transporter experiment felt, and was disappointed with the lack of follow-up to what I thought was a promising upside to Jetrel’s scientific work. Some parts of dialogue between Neelix and Kes, as well as Neelix and Jetrel, are terrific, but this is a mediocre outing overall. The subject matter could have lent itself to a powerful and thought-provoking script, but it falls flat for the reasons stated above.
(6 out of 10)
James Sloyan as Jetrel
Larry Hankin as Gaunt Gary