As Star Trek: Voyager fans know, the romantic relationship between Kes (Jennifer Lien) and Neelix (Ethan Phillips) that was a thread through the show’s first few seasons eventually fizzled out, even before Kes left the ship for new planes of existence. The breakup didn’t really happen onscreen—unless you count the conversation they had when Kes was possessed by Tieran in “Warlord” and not really herself—although it was mentioned in a few third season episodes as a given. But the couple wasn’t ever given any real onscreen closure. So on a recent episode of The Delta Flyers, the podcast co-hosted by Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) and Robbie McNeill (Tom Paris), Ethan Phillips talked in a bit of detail about the closure scene that was written and filmed for Neelix and Kes, but never aired.
Phillips and Tim Russ (Tuvok) were guests for the Delta Flyers‘ discussion of season three’s “Rise,” and Phillips told them all about a scene in sickbay where Neelix and Kes interact almost as if they have no history at all, let alone a recent breakup. Wang pointed out that there seemed to be no tracking of what had happened between the characters, and that’s when Phillips mentioned a scene shot for an earlier episode—which was news to his former co-stars, who’d never heard about it before. Phillips explained:
“…we did do a scene where we both acknowledge that we’re not a couple anymore. We shot it in the science lab, which was a set we didn’t use often. And Kes and I had a closure conversation where we said we want to be friends now and blah, blah, blah. And it was, it was quite a nice tag to the relationship. They never aired it…
…it was it was a very good scene. It was easily as six or seven-page scene where we track what happened to us and what we think might have caused the split, but that we want to stay friends…”
He added that it was a “beautifully written scene.” He said he never found out why it didn’t air, especially given that it was a standalone scene that could have been inserted into any of several episodes done at around that time.
Co-stars weigh in
Shooting scenes that don’t make it into the final episode is something all actors are used to. Tim Russ chimed in to suggest that time was the culprit:
“Time, and they probably couldn’t have—I don’t even know if they had time to maybe edit it down. You know, just to get to the meat of it and get out.”
McNeill thought that cutting the moment out was in keeping with the overall tone of the show, for better or for worse:
“I don’t think that the producers and showrunners of our show valued those kind of relationship stories. They really wanted standalone sci fi concepts, let them play out. They didn’t want to deal with long term relationship consistency or continuity. There was very, very little of it. Tom and B’Elanna got a little bit of that in later seasons, but you know, Garrett and I have even talked about the Chakotay/Janeway relationship and that people get whiplash, too. It’s like, one episode, they have a relationship, then the next episode, they don’t, then they do again, then they don’t, then they do. Which is it? I think what it was was, it was if it was convenient to play that quality in an episode, they would do it if it wasn’t, they wouldn’t. And I think that’s probably what happened with the Kes and Neelix thing.”
Phillips agreed, while also pointing out that the relationship had some problems from its inception:
“It was a lot of ambiguity about that relationship to begin with. Was it platonic, wasn’t romantic. And it was shaky, just the the optics You know, I’m an older guy, and here’s this very young girl who’s ostensibly two years old in her race, and I think they weren’t sure how to handle it so much. And so I think they just thought let’s just move on, and maybe they’ll forget about it.”
Read the scene
The actual breakup between Neelix and Kess happened offscreen during the episode “Warlord,” earlier in season three. The closure scene Phillips is talking about was written and shot for “Fair Trade,” three episodes later. Interestingly, the Star Trek: Voyager Companion has the script from what seems to be the scene Phillips is talking about. While the information matches up, Phillips clearly remembers filming a longer version as this one is only about half a page long. You can see it below.
Kes and Neelix do eventually have a bit of a conversation about the breakup. In the early fourth season episode “The Gift,” they share some Talaxian champagne and Neelix tells Kes that he realizes he was holding her back—and jokes that she broke up with him because she hated his cooking. But the meaty, more specific interaction described by Phillips was never seen by viewers. One can always hope that the team working on the Voyager doc To The Journey will be able to track this one down for us.
Listen to The Delta Flyers
The rest of the episode with Russ and Phillips is well worth listening to for any Voyager fan, as is the podcast itself.
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