I’m sitting holding a book that I had purchased way back when I was a teenager. I’ve never actually used it for its intended purpose. To be honest it has just sat on my shelf for years without even getting a second thought, until today.
I’m looking at the front cover and wondering why the smiling face of my old friend has been hated by so many people over the years. I know he isn’t perfect, but who is? I think everyone attacks him too often and that they only do it through some misguided mob mentality. It’s about time someone spoke out and defended my old friend.
“What book am I holding and whose face is looking back at me?” I hear you ask. Well the book is the Star Trek Cookbook and the warm and welcoming character that stares back at me is none other than Voyager’s Neelix.
Let the defense begin…
I’m not going to get on my high horse and pretend that Neelix was used to his full potential; there were plenty of missed opportunities to utilize his character. I agree that whilst he was going through his jealous boyfriend phase he was at some points very annoying. Like anyone in life Neelix is not perfect, so why can’t we give him the same forgiveness we show so many others? I mean do you hold it against Data for all those times he has never heard a simple expression like “burning the midnight oil” despite having many years of service prior to serving on the Enterprise? Do you judge Archer for being racist towards nearly every Vulcan he met in the first couple of seasons of Enterprise? Or do you still resent Sisko for his initial hatred towards our beloved Picard? I didn’t think so.
Whether you agree or not with Janeway’s decision to allow Neelix and Kes to join the Voyager crew on their journey home in exchange for his services as a guide, and despite the fact that if Voyager kept at full warp for a month they probably would have gone beyond the space with which Neelix would have been familiar, the decision was made… End of story.
Let’s go through some things that he may have done with which some fans would have issue and I will give you my point of view.
Early on Neelix took over the Captain’s dining area to make his kitchen without permission, and in turn getting Janeway hot under the collar. In this instance Neelix was using his initiative to benefit the crew; he recognized that there was an issue with power for the replicators and decided to pitch in and provide one of the most essential services to all of the crew. When Kathryn got annoyed that her dining area was destroyed, I thought, “How selfish!” I love Janeway, but come on! Voyager isn’t the size of the Enterprise. How can you justify needing a huge Captain’s quarters, a ready room that’s bigger than some flats, in addition to a dining room!
Whether or not Neelix was aware that he needed permission to do some major renovations to that area of the ship, surely there were multiple members of the crew who could see what he was doing. How could they not notice! Surely if you were working next door you would hear the racket of Neelix creating a kitchen. What about all the crew members sitting in the galley watching as a hole gets smashed through the wall? Why would they not either say something to him or report that the alien who just moved onto the ship is now destroying Starfleet property?
In no way could you ever blame Neelix for overstepping the mark when he is unaware there is a mark and no one else gives a damn. This misunderstanding lies on the shoulders of the incompetent crew members of Voyager and an uncharacteristically selfish Captain Janeway.
*On a side note, why did they restrict the use of replicators to save energy but never even bothered to put any cap on the use of the holodeck. Honestly, the holodeck is one giant fracking Replicator.
I think if my Talaxian friend truly had a weak point it was his relationship with Kes. When we initially meet the pair, we find out that Kes escaped from her underground utopia and had been captured by the evil sub-Klingons. Then eventually she was rescued by Neelix, who was clearly smitten with the one year old.
Neelix clearly loved Kes and would have moved worlds for her, though I think Kes’ feelings never extended beyond a good friend or older brother. Though due to her owing Neelix a debt of gratitude, she felt an obligation to have a relationship with him. This feeling of obligation created a real problem. By not being up front with Neelix about how she felt, Kes was leading him on. allowing his feelings to deepen without having a clue that his love was not reciprocated. Anyone who has ever been in a similar situation can surely relate to this awkward predicament.
Because she had no true romantic feelings towards Neelix, you can imagine that she slowly grew less interested with him, especially as she spent more and more time with the doctor and Tom Paris. So naturally over time, the jealousy he felt would only grow. Why is this so hard for fans to empathize with? I’m not justifying some of his actions, though if you try to tell me that you cannot associate with his feelings you are either very lucky or kidding yourself.
I do not blame Kes for this awful predicament, she simply made some wrong decisions. Though don’t come down on Neelix for being the victim of two very basic human emotions, love and jealousy.
Once again Neelix is using his initiative. He has seen a problem and is addressing it to help support his friends and crew members. Imagine this: you are at the office processing documents and then some old dude pretending to be a farmer pulls you 70 years away from home and probes you. Then you’re stuck in a strange place never knowing if you will get home. You can try and keep your head down as much as possible to take up all your time with work, but at some point you are going to either snap or have a melt down. This is the reality that the Voyager crew faces, and only one person steps up to the plate to attempt to bring some light into a dark situation.
Why is Neelix qualified for the position? Let’s face it, he had his entire family killed during a conflict with Haakonian order. Then he has his entire faith obliterated when he dies and doesn’t find himself in “The Great Forest” where all good Talaxians go when they pass (“Mortal Coil”). Yet here he is, seemingly without a trouble in the world. He has spent years fighting his own devils and now stands before us as a cheerful, caring and considerate individual who wants to help others who are facing a similar peril. That is no small feat!
Sure sometimes it may be inappropriate for him to pop up to the bridge during a crisis, but just politely tell him to come back later. And how can you get annoyed with him for making probably the most logical holodeck program? Forget playing Beowulf, stop playing billiards, who wouldn’t want to go swimming and be surrounded by scantily clad beautiful men and women. If you can’t go to Risa, why not bring Risa to you?
A morale officer was exactly what the ship needed, whether the crew knew it or not. So take a leaf from Neelix’s book and make the most of a bad situation.
Some people are far too critical of this genuinely sweet relationship. At no point did Neelix ever have to offer his baby sitting services to Lt. Wildman, but once again the selfless Talaxian was happy to dedicate his free time to helping others. It was lovely to see the relationship that he shared with Naomi flourish throughout their time together. Whether it was teaching Naomi, spending time together on the holodeck or tucking her into bed, this was nothing but a beautiful thing.
One episode that highlights this wonderful father/daughter style relationship between them was “Once Upon a Time.” You could see that everything that he did for Naomi was out of love and that he would have thrived had he had the chance to have his own family. The relationship with Naomi made his decision to leave Voyager to live with Dexa and her child extremely fitting. The scene in which Neelix leaves Voyager and Janeway gives him the title of Official Starfleet Ambassador to the Delta quadrant followed by Tuvok’s little leg wiggle in celebration of first contact day was so touching. Each time I watch it, it brings tears to my eyes. Speaking of Tuvok…
Tuvok and Neelix had a very special relationship. Despite Tuvok’s lack of emotions and Neelix being far from understanding about this part of Tuvok, they managed to build a true friendship. I know that many times Neelix’s over enthusiastic approach was far from appropriate when it came to our security chief, but how many of us have had that friend who annoys you but you are still friends with him or her?
A brilliant episode that truly showed the depth of their friendship was “Riddles”. In this episode Tuvok loses his memories as well as his logic after being attacked by a cloaked alien. Throughout the whole adventure Neelix was truly helping Mr. Vulcan to rediscover himself even though he was to lose the newly open, emotional and warm friend.
I think that despite his early misgivings Tuvok held towards his future friend, Neelix won a lot of respect from him during the enjoyable series 3 episode, “The Rise” aka the one with the space elevator. There were a number of nice scenes in this episode, including the emotional Tuvok asking if they will still be friends when he is back to normal. At the end of the episode after getting back to his logical self, Tuvok even gives Neelix an answer to a riddle from the beginning of the show. It was similar little moments throughout the entire series that really showed how fond the green blooded Vulcan had grown of Mr. Neelix.
It’s late at night, there is a problem that a select few members of the crew has been working tirelessly to solve. Then Neelix appears (with or without a jug of coffee, you decide) and miraculously solves their issue despite having little knowledge on the subject and is pronounced a genius. What a load of rubbish, right?
Wrong, never does Neelix ever solve the crew’s technical problem for them. Like Guinan before him, he listens to every word they have to say and then tries to help them look at the problem they face from a different angle. This is something that I have personally done on a number of occasions (I’m as thick as pigs’ muck but if you can help inspire the great minds to think outside of their normal boundaries then great things can happen). Rarely does Neelix ever give the solution, so how can you find it annoying that the ever resourceful chap simply acts as a mirror off of which his friends can bounce ideas?
So in short, Neelix is a warm, funny, friendly, reliable, caring individual that consistently shows initiative and goes out of his way for any member of the crew that needs his help. Within such a short period of time he had made himself an integral part of the ship’s complement and in my opinion a vital part of the show.
Next time you’re about to jump on the Neelix hating band wagon, why not think about why exactly you feel that way and if his actions really deserve your annoyance.
As for me?
Neelix always has been and always shall be, my friend.