15 – Jetrel

Grade: C

Jetrel (1995) on IMDb


An alien ship hails Voyager and asks for Neelix. It is a Haakonian ship, and they were at war with the Talaxians about 15 years earlier. It turns out that the captain of the Haakonian ship is Dr. Jetrel, the man responsible for the development and creation of the Metreon Cascade – a weapon of mass destruction that destroyed the Talaxian moon Rinax. Dr. Jetrel would like to speak with Neelix on a matter of “life and death.”


It’s good that they have created a Neelix-centric episode that isn’t just comic relief. Up to this point in the series, we know very little about Neelix. He has named himself “Morale Officer”, and he’s also the ship’s cook and guide to the Delta Quadrant, but we haven’t seen much of his personality or his back story. So this episode definitely is welcome and needed. Ethan Phillips does an excellent job with the role, and it’s very easy for me to put myself in his character’s shoes.

The parallels between this and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan in August 1945 are very obvious. It’s a very risky move when you take your storylines from such horrific and serious historical events. If it had been handled improperly, this really could have been a complete disaster for the series. But Ethan Phillips nailed this role. Honestly, I wouldn’t have expected him to do as well as he did. He has always been a comic relief actor in everything I’ve ever seen him in. But here, he does an outstanding job in a very serious role. Plus the material is handled with class, dignity and maturity that I haven’t always seen from Berman and Braga.

But I can’t say the same thing about the character of Dr Jetrel. In fact, he comes across as completely unsympathetic. He shows no remorse at all for his actions. He says, “I did what had to be done”, “It was the government and the military leaders who decided to use it”, “I do believe I can help you – isn’t that more important than punishing me?” How can we, as viewers, feel anything at all for this character? Not only does he not even try to apologize for his actions, but he doesn’t seem to think that he did anything wrong. He sheds a couple of tears when Neelix tells him the effect the bomb had on the people who lived on Rinax, but that’s it. It would have been a perfect time for him to tell Neelix that he had a plan to possibly bring back those victims. If he had, we would have then been cheering for him to succeed in the rest of the episode.

I don’t rate this episode very high for several reasons, however. First of all, and perhaps most importantly, the storyline doesn’t come across very organically to me. In other words, this episode takes a “by the numbers” approach. I wouldn’t be surprised if in coming up with the idea for this story, the writers and producers discussed the DS9 episode called Duet. From what was filmed, it seems obvious to me that they tried to repeat their previous success, but simply by going through the motions.

In my mind, I imagine a scenario where someone says, “that was a great episode. What if we give Neelix some backstory and have him run into someone who was responsible for creating a weapon that killed hundreds of thousands of people? Then we could have him be the only person in the Delta Quadrant who can cure Neelix of a fatal disease.” “Yeah, that would be great! Imagine all the tension this story would create!”

So far, it sounds like a good idea, but there’s one problem. If it’s too obvious to the viewer that this is what you’re doing, then the story doesn’t come across as very realistic. I could tell right from the beginning of this episode that they were trying to catch lightning in a bottle once again. They even made Jetrel look like Marritza from Duet. I was surprised at how alike the two characters look. Well, it’s not the last time Voyager will rip off an idea from DS9.

Anyway, I knew exactly what they would do in every scene, and what they were trying to accomplish. It was as if they were telling me “now you now need to feel this way”. There were also no surprises in the actions of any characters, except near the end when Voyager arrives at Rinax. More on that a little later, but what bothers me about this is that what happened during the episode only made sense because it was written that way.

For example, look at Janeway’s actions. Immediately after Neelix tells Janeway that Dr. Jetrel developed the weapon that destroyed his home world’s moon, Janeway says she’s very sorry to hear about this. Then without hesitation, she turns right around and beams Jetrel onto the ship and provides him with quarters. Wait a minute – I thought he just wanted to scan Neelix. Why would Janeway think he needs to spend the night on Voyager? How long does she think it will take to scan him? Shouldn’t there have been a scene when he explains that he’ll need to be on the ship for a while? Maybe that would have been too distracting, but the problem is that what we see on the screen just does not make any sense. Janeway doesn’t know anything about this man at all. She has no proof that he’s even a doctor of any kind. All she knows is that Neelix blames him for the disaster on Rinax. Now why would Janeway want this guy anywhere near her ship? Couldn’t it theoretically be possible that Jetrel is totally insane and that he actually wants to destroy all Talaxians? Couldn’t his story about helping Neelix to be cured of this disease just be a ruse to get close enough to kill him off? Why is Janeway so trusting of someone she has never met, but who freely admits having developed this weapon? Janeway’s actions make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Some of the scenes here seemed unnecessary – they could have been cut completely and nothing would have been lost. Neelix’s nightmare, for example, does nothing for this story – except it does hint that maybe he isn’t being completely truthful about what he was doing during the war. Still, this could have come out with dialogue and the nightmare could have been left out.

The scene on the Holodeck to start the episode also didn’t need to be included. In it, we see that Neelix learns how to put the cue ball in a spot where Tuvok can’t make a shot. I think this is supposed to be analogous to giving up or quitting, but that’s not the point of this shot. In fact, it’s nothing at all like giving up. It very well could be what wins the game for you.

Earlier, I mentioned that there is one unexpected twist near the end of the episode, and while this would normally be a very good sign, it turns out to be a complete dud. Jetrel goes into sickbay with the sample of isotopes from Rinax. Then he de-activates the Doctor, so that’s our first clue that he’s not totally honest. But that also raises a red flag. Why should Jetrel have the authorization to de-activate the Doctor? Are all random aliens allowed to access Voyager’s computer system? Tuvok obviously dropped the ball here by not installing some safety protocols. Oh well. It turns out that it was totally unnecessary anyway. Yes, that’s right, the big twist at the end was completely 100% unnecessary anyway. Jetrel could have been completely open and honest about what his intentions were and there would have been no difference in what happened. Well, I can’t say “no difference,” because obviously we wouldn’t have had this opportunity to copy Duet. This would have become just an “Alien of the Week” episode.

If I had been working on this episode with Berman and Braga, I would have asked the question “why does Jetrel have to sneak around here in this scene?” He didn’t have to de-activate the Doctor or immobilize Neelix at all. All he had to do was pretend to suddenly discover organic material in the isotopes that they transported onto the ship. Then they could have gone on with their transporter experiment in trying to bring everyone back. So this scene in Sickbay was just a rabbit hole that showed up in the script because it was written that way. Again, it’s not organic, and that’s the problem with this episode.

The bottom line here is that it’s just too lazy. By now there have been several hundred episodes of Star Trek on TV, and they’re simply running out of original stories. We were told when Voyager started that this would be a different series than any of the others because it takes place in a completely different part of the galaxy, and with a ship that is completely isolated from the rest of the Federation. And yet we really have nothing new. I rate this episode as slightly above average only because of the character moments for Neelix and the performance of Ethan Phillips. But the rest of it is no better than simply pedestrian.

Of Note

James Sloyan appears in two other Star Trek episodes. In one of them, he is a Romulan defector who has information to share with Captain Picard. In another, he plays Worf’s son Alexander at age 50. I find it interesting that in all three of these episodes, his character isn’t completely truthful.

Here’s a question that will never be answered again. What happens to Jetrel’s ship? Remember, Janeway had it put into the cargo hold, but she never says they should get rid of it when the episode ends. So what happened to it?