JetrelBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 1:56 PM GMT
See Also: 'Jetrel' Episode Guide
Voyager is contacted by a scientist named Jetrel, the man who created the deadly metreon cascade which killed all life on Neelix's homeworld Rynax during the Talaxian war with Jetrel's people. Neelix wants nothing to do with Jetrel, but the scientist claims that all survivors of the cataclysm are at risk for developing a fatal side effect, and wants to test Neelix to see whether he can develop an antidote.
Neelix is highly skeptical of Jetrel's motives, believing that the man is a genocidal maniac. Janeway is more open-minded about the experiments and convinces Neelix to permit the scientist to do his work, though she is deeply moved by Neelix's story about the death of his entire family. Finally, Neelix confesses to Kes that the reason he survived the metreon cascade was that he had fled the army, and was hiding from duty during the cataclysm.
Meanwhile, Jetrel shuts down the Doctor and begins some highly unorthodox experiments. When confronted, he admits the truth: Neelix was never ill, though Jetrel is, but that's not why he contacted Voyager. He has been able to isolate DNA strands in the inchoate miasma of Rynax's atmosphere, and thinks he can restore the victims using Voyager's transporter. Janeway agrees to let him try and they nearly materialize a person, but the attempt fails and Jetrel collapses in the transporter room. Neelix visits the dying man and forgives him.
A terrific episode which reminded me a little bit of DS9's "Duet," in which Kira believed she was facing the murderer of her people, Neelix's plight was complicated not only because he survived the genocide but because he believed his cowardice spared him. Ethan Phillips gave an emotional, physical performance that transformed Neelix from the caricature he has often been on Voyager into a complex figure with a dark past. I loved his interaction with a sympathetic Janeway and was a little surprised when he confessed his failings to Kes rather than to her; Kes may be his lover, but it's Janeway's approval he seems to strive for.
The story itself was unpredictable and engrossing, a new idea about the possible use of transporter technology that I hope they make more of; on several occasions, characters have been split and merged using the device, but the series has never gotten into some of the ethical questions like whether someone's DNA could be resequenced to make him ten years younger. Jetrel was a genuinely tragic figure - a man who thought he was saving his people during a war, a scientist remembered as the slaughterer of an entire population. I liked the nuclear science parallels and the guilt on all sides.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.