I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this episode. I didn’t remember anything about it (something that has happened with other episodes) and an episode about Neelix examining his faith didn’t inspire confidence in me.
However, I found this be an engaging episode that dealt with the subject respectfully and had good roles for most of the cast. It even brought back Ensign Wildman and her daughter Noami, who haven’t been seen since season 2 I believe.
Essentially, Neelix is killed on an away mission but Seven is able to revive him after 18 hours using Borg technology. This throws Neelix’s faith in the Talaxian afterlife for a loop because there was nothing after he died. He didn’t see all of his family at the great spiritual tree like he was taught. Suffice it to say, Neelix goes to a dark place after this.
Having Neelix be the one to suffer a crisis of faith makes a lot of sense. Aside from Chakotay none of the other characters are really spiritual so they wouldn’t be having crises of faith anyway. Plus Neelix is always the happy, exuberant one. This episode did a good job of showing the multiple functions Neelix serves on the ship. He is basically the cook/ambassador/counselor/imaginary under the bed and in the replicator monster hunter. Watching someone who has a sunny outlook on life break down was hard.
It didn’t feel forced, either. Neelix was dead for a long time and he didn’t see anything. He tried to fake his way through it but that didn’t work either. Chakotay’s vision quest only made things worse. That was a powerful, disturbing dream as Neelix “saw” his sister who told him the afterlife was a lie and he had nothing to live for.
I have to give the episode props for not giving a clean ending, either. Yes, Chakotay was able to talk Neelix out of killing himself but Neelix’s faith is still shattered. The ending was melancholy with no easy answers.
Seven had a good part in this episode. She is the one who comes up with the method to save Neelix because she feels he is needed and a valued member of the crew. It shows that she has started to assimilate into the crew and come to care about them. Of course she still has a lot to go as her attempts at small talk during the dinner party were abysmal and yet so funny.
In the end, this was a powerful episode that explored what happens when someone loses their faith and what it can do to that person and the people around them. It is just too bad that I don’t think there any follow up to Neelix’s loss of faith after this.
Besides, the Doctor was hardly "just another character"; he was one of the breakout characters of the show, along with Seven of Nine. When I was developing episode pitch ideas for season 5, I tried to avoid coming up with Seven stories or Doctor stories, because I figured everyone was doing those and I wanted to offer something different to improve my chances. But I found it was hard to come up with interesting stories about anyone but the Doctor and Seven, so the majority of my pitches still centered on one of those two. The other characters had pretty much resolved their story arcs by then, save only the developing Torres-Paris romance. But the Doctor and Seven were both rich characters, still new and growing and learning, able to offer unique perspectives and prone to get into interesting conflicts. They deservedly became the primary anchors of the show aside from Janeway. So of course the writers had to find a way to do more with the Doctor, to put him into a wider range of situations and interactions. You don't keep your MVP on the bench.
I totally agree that the Doctor was on the break-out characters. No other series had had a hologram as a main character so there was a lot of new and interesting angles to mine. The same with Seven. There were stories you could tell with those characters that you really couldn't with the others. The other characters definitely had the potential for growth but the writers never really capitalized on it. Take what I wrote about Neelix in this review. The writers could have turned his loss of faith into an on-going arc but they didn't. I'm pretty sure we never hear of it again after this.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman