Neelix is front and center as you’d imagine and his character gets to move forward and backward simultaneously. An impressive and annoying feat to accomplish. In the beginning of the episode we find him converting the captain’s private dining room into a kitchen (we will leave aside the bizarre notion that the captain needs a private dining room stranded 70 years from home). This scene is played for laughs but just comes off a bit awkward. Janeway comes off uncharacteristically ineffectual and Neelix is just a bit dim.
But later when Neelix joins the away mission to find dilithum crystals he actually shines. He seems confident and prepared and competent and gives a strong reason for having him on the ship in the first place. Later still when Neelix is incapacitated we get to see a fragile and tender side to him. He is afraid to be alone and wonders if he even wants to continue living. This is well done and actually quite moving.
Contrast that with the sudden jealousy tirade he goes off on. Seemingly out of nowhere Neelix bursts into a rage and questions Kes’ loyalty when Paris simply tells her, “You’ll know where I’ll be if you need me.” This he interprets as infidelity completely disregarding the fact that Paris is a medical assistant and is just letting everyone know he’s available for assisting medically. I found this completely unnecessary and only accomplished making Neelix look like a) a moron and b) and unsympathetic ass.
Thankfully we also get some stand out moments with the Doctor and Kes highlighting their burgeoning friendship. These two continue to be the most interesting characters on the show. They have nuance, they have personality and most of all they have chemistry. Honestly Neelix should get upset about these two not Paris. These scene where Kes talks the Doctor through a crisis of confidence and helps him realize he is more than just programming is extremely well done. It makes the rest of the crew’s interactions seem bland and lifeless. And at this point they kinda are. The Doctor and Kes continue to make this show worth watching.
In the end Chakotay gets to have a hero moment coming up with a (scientifically accurate it should be noted) solution to the reflective cave thingy. And Janeway gets to be all self-righteous like she likes to do. And Kes gets to make the personal sacrifice to save Neelix further making his jealousy outburst seem more asinine. And all of these things play just fine and by the numbers.
So yeah, mixed bag. Some real high points and some lows. Not great episode but certainly not bad.