Ethan Phillips Laments ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ Breakup Scene With Neelix And Kes Was Never Shown

Neelix and Kes - Star Trek: Voyager

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.

page from the Star Trek: Voyager Companion

At least part of the deleted farewell scene between Kes and Neelix, as reported in the Star Trek: Voyager Companion

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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Maybe that will somehow find its way onto the “To the Journey” discs.

Their relationship was always creepy. Kes was only a year old at first, and she really was portrayed as basically being a child in the first season. And wasnt’t there a scene where Kes dumps Neelix while she’s posessed?

Yes, I remember. It was confusing at the time.

I think it would be well to remember that Kes’ species had a fairly short lifespan to begin with, and that Kes was sexually mature, and had a “false pregnancy” at age 2. Different characters had different lifespans. A Vulcan usually had a lifespan a little more than double that of a Terran; and Guinan’s Race was extremely long lived; on the order of 900 years. There was also Jadzia Dax: She was about 25 years old, while her symbiote was on its 7th life, and on the order of, at least 300 years old.

Kes was born in 2369. Voyager ended up in the Delta Quadrant in 2371, making her “about 2 years old” at the time. Given the actress age, and the fact that Ocampans supposedly only lived about 9 years, would make her “about 20 Earth years” of age.

So, her relationship with Neelix likely began in her “late teens”, which would’ve been several months prior to joining Voyager.

It still is creepy, largely because they didn’t try to develop the nuances at all. The implications of the concept of a species that only lives 9 years are largely glossed over, which actually only makes the awkwardness worse. We see Kes as being quite wise, but she’s also often in the position of being a student to the Doctor and sometimes Tom, who also has a crush on her and we see would’ve happily married her in the right circumstances. That didn’t help. They also never explored how Ocampans attain emotional and physical maturity or delved deeply into their culture, society or physiology. They are portrayed as being babied by the Caretaker and nurtured to become powerful and longer-lived by Suspiria, and we get surface-only glimpses of them and their peculiarities in Elogium, Before & After and Cold Fire. That’s it, beyond the odd psychic moment for Kes.

The way I see it, if you’re going to introduce as eyebrow-raising a concept as a humanoid species that reaches maturity in less than 2 years and put one of them in a romantic and sexual relationship… then own it and develop it. The fact that the producers not only tiptoed around the intricacies of the Neelix/Kes relationship and any details about the Ocampa, but also publicly chalked up letting Kes go because they didn’t think the character was working out, that bothered me to no end. Knowing now that they were at least in part covering for Jennifer Lien’s personal struggles mitigates that to a point, but there was so much wasted potential in seasons 1-3 because someone got cold feet about following through with this idea.

Did they want Kes dead at the end of Voyager’s journey? It seems like they aimed for 7 years of the series, so it looks like Kes was about to reach the end of her lifespan sometime about the series finale. Having said that I realised that would mean Voyager staff actually planned ahead which is a silly notion, since they never planned anything, which is why Voyager is what it is.

Suspiria’s wards were older than 9, so they did at least sow the seeds for her having the potential to exceed expectations. But I bet they did have that in mind, actually – that having her die would add poignance to their finale down the road.

Not creepy at all. A charming relationship on every level.

Great rebuttal!

I agree with what you said about Kes, Ian. The relationship with Neelix never ever looked good to me for the reasons you stated. It looks even worse now, now that we all know how pervasive pedophiles and sexual abuse are in society and how they are protected by corporations, religious institutions, government bodies, schools and universities, etc.

It’s interesting that Mr. Phillips even the very real problems with the relationship even then. Although I never ever liked Neelix (I find him extremely irritating), I do think Mr. Phillips is a gifted actor who I’ve seen in other roles. I don’t blame him for what happened with the whole Kes and Neelix thing. That can be laid at the feet of the creators, writers, and showrunners, obviously. If it was my choice, neither of those characters would’ve been on the show to begin with. Neelix was beyond irritating and the whole Kes character was very badly thought out.

The real problem was that Neelix– especially in hindsight, watching it 20+ years later as an adult who has had adult relationships– often comes across as emotionally manipulative, sometimes dismissive of Kes, toxically jealous, and at times downright abusive. I didn’t see it at the time because I was a young teenager, but some moments make me very uncomfortable watching them today.

You’re totally right, KLOne. That made it so much more creepy.

I don’t know what the creators and writers were thinking but the Neelix-Kes thing was just awful!

This sums up my biggest issue with Voyager: inconsistent and sometimes even nonexistent character traits and development. I really enjoyed many of Voyager’s plots, but outside of The Doctor, Seven of Nine, and to a lesser extent Janeway, most of the characters remained unchanged from Caretaker to Endgame.

I’m really looking forward to “Stranger New Worlds,” as the writers have flat out said they want to return to an episodic/story of the week type of story telling, but (unlike Voyager) maintain character arcs and development.

“they want to return to an episodic/story of the week type of story telling, but (unlike Voyager) maintain character arcs and development.”

Presumably they also favor both expanded government services and lower taxes.

“I don’t think that the producers and, and showrunners of our show valued those kind of relationship stories. They really wanted like a standalone sci fi concepts, let them play out. They didn’t want to deal with long term relationship, consistency or continuity.’

says it all really.

Didn’t notice the typo until after I couldn’t edit my post anymore – adding an extra R in “STRANGE New Worlds” really changes the tone! “STRANGER New Worlds” kinda sounds like a spin-off of “Stranger Things” ;p

I recall Ron Moore lamenting that he was told, while writing Barge of the Dead, that it was not important to address how the episode’s events affected B’Elanna’s relationship with Tom. It’s bizarre when a show takes what is ostensibly a network or studio note that most writers would try to fight, and just makes it a flat out rule.

If I remember correctly, what “broke” Ron Moore, was how there was no fallout between Chakotay and Janeway after “Equinox”. She is pretty vengeful in that episode and their relationship gets seriously strained, but by “Barge of the Dead”, despite there never being even a scene to deal with it, their relationship was back to normal. Iff I also remember correctly, it was Berman who pushed for the episodic, reset-button storytelling, because he came from a syndication background, where you want to be able to air the episodes in any order you want.
I love Voyager and grew up on it, but of all the Star Trek shows, this one has the most wasted potential. I maintain that “Year of Hell” and “Void” should have been the template for how the show should have been handled.

a show like Voy suffers from using the ‘re set’, its premise needs character, arc development.
i know they screwed up with the jonas/spy arc in season 2 but that should not have meant not developing more properly.

I’ve said it before, so apologies for being a broken record, but it is annoying that this particular standalone strategy worked, commercially. It has meant that Voyager is now more popular than DS9 on streaming services where people actually pick and choose episodes more than they binge. The trickledown effect has been that Voyager is seen as the property people want to revisit besides TNG, hence Seven and Janeway returning and there being a Voyager J in Discovery. I have no issue with standalone storytelling so long as characters develop. On Voyager they actively thwarted character growth and continuity for pretty much everyone except Seven, the Doctor, and, haphazardly, Janeway. Voyager’s commercial success worries me that its lessons of what not to do will be ignored.

The most popular Voy EPs streamed are Borg stories.

Telling that the only time they added more children to the show was when they could be Borg.
150 people and in 6 years they had only 1 baby conceived during the trip and one pregnancy from before the show started. They were that determined not to develop ancillary characters and evolve the ship and crew unless they were connected to Seven (Naomi only ever interacted with Neelix, Janeway and Seven, it’s like her mother never existed).

in 7 years there should have been hook ups and babies everywhere.

That mind set led to the similar development of Ent

I think the episodic structure of Voyager could’ve worked really well, had the characters been allowed to grow. TNG is a fairly good example of this. Even the least developed of the main cast (I’m thinking Geordi and Beverly) went through some fairly large changes over TNG’s seven year run. It’s fairly easy to see the differences b/w the characters in Season 1 vs. Season 7. That just wasn’t the case on Voyager. You could pluck out Harry Kim from a Season 1 ep, throw him in Season 7, and you wouldn’t notice the difference.

Absolutely. I don’t know think it’s a coincidence that once Michael Piller, famous for obsessing over how plot affected character, stepped back, the show became less interested in character growth.

Chakotay stops being rebellious in season 3, and even when he disagrees with Janeway, it’s only for an episode. Tuvok’s character growth over 7 years consists entirely of learning to tolerate Neelix. Kim does not change at all. Tom matures a little, but it’s stop and start. Same with Torres, she lives within this tiny bandwidth of coming to terms with internalized shame over being Klingon. Neelix actually becomes kinder and less suspicious, possibly the most TNG-like evolution now that I think of it. The only characters they really give their all to though are Seven and the Doctor, who have the most exciting and imaginative backgrounds. Braga was so good with Seven’s dialogue as well as exciting high concept sci-fi, so that papered over a number of sins, but they definitely left a lot on the table when it came to putting such a solid ensemble to good use.

he pushed for the jonas/spy arc and wanted young actors cast as kazon because he based them on l a gangs.
writers room fought against him in season 2 when he came back on staff.

That doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve always felt that Berman was (is?) a fairly good executive producer. He knows how to make a show run, keep it on budget, etc. However, the minute his sticks his hands into the storytelling, he just ruins everything. The best thing he did for Star Trek was stay the hell away from DS9 once he and Michael Pillar had developed it. I think if he had stepped away from Voyager in the same way, and let Jeri Taylor fully take the reigns, Voyager would have turned out quite differently.

as the writers have flat out said they want to return to an episodic/story of the week type of story telling, but (unlike Voyager) maintain character arcs and development.

So just like every other tv show these days.

Janeway was definitely inconsistently written. Her morals– which would then affect her command decisions– would flip flop episode to epsidoe. One moment she’d say they could not do a thing because they “can’t abandon Starfleet principle just because we’re far from home”, and the next she’d break a major Starfleet directive because she “had to get her people home.”

Easily the most inconsistent character on the show.

forget about what she did in ‘equinox’, her actions at the end of ‘tuvix’ should have inspired a mutiny.

They should get Jennifer Lien on their podcast. That’d be something.

But this scene should be in the documentary

There’s no “they should get…” with Ms. Lien. She’s stepped away from the business, and given her health issues, a return is highly unlikely.

I hope she’s ok.

That scene sounds like something that would be of great benefit to put back into the show in an extended episode cut, à la the HD remaster of “The Measure of a Man”.

I guess I’ll make it a sub-entry under “Voyager HD remaster” on my list of Star Trek pipe dreams, right alongside “DS9 HD remaster” and “TMP director’s edition HD remaster”.

Voyager had a rough 3rd season.

I wonder how many of those scenes were left “on the cutting room floor”. I hope they were saved, and with the newer technologies, and time not necessarily a problem; maybe they could be reworked into the tapes, or DVD’s, of the various series. I wonder too, if new episodes, or movies, could be created; using the past recorded episodes as source material, and using new scripts, and new scripts based on some of the better Star Trek books. I personally liked the “duel” fought on Organia, by Spocks 1, and 2; with Kirk as observer/participant; in “Spock Must Die!” and the expansions of “Bem”, and “Eye of the Beholder”; as well as “Planet of Judgement” and “Journey to Madworld”, the latter having an element of fun in it, something of a “Tribble story”.

Wait, they were a couple?

I see what you did here 😆

I didn’t want to get into details. ;-)

I never felt the relationship was unresolved or remember having any questions, though I think the much more wasted oppurtunity was when old Kes came back and the only interaction she shared with Neelix was some standoffish exchange of one-liners. They could have done some meaningful reflection then.

Whys is it that I remember that scene, or at least part of it? It was in the botanic section where they were growing plants, if I remember correctly? Is this some freaky version of the Nelson Mandela Effect?

My impression when I watched the show as it aired was that the breakup while she was possessed was the point where their relationship ended. It didn’t make much sense given the plot but it’s also the clear dividing line between the episodes when they were a couple and the episodes she’s becoming interested in other people. My guess is the producers thought that was breakup enough.

That always was a gross out for me thinking about Kress actually sleeping with that hairy old dude.

Nothing against Ethan Phillips, but the less of Neelix the better. Best part is when the finally got him off the show.

The whole Neelix Kess thing was creepy. Period. Seemed like an adult abusing a kid.
I actually thought having Delta Quadrant locals on the crew was a good idea, but badly executed.
In university once heard that there was a connection between those who commit sex crimes and Star Trek and at the time I was really offended. I mean how can a show about space exploration where everyone is so busy exploring they unknown there is no real time to go into their sex lives have any connection. Not going to lie – I think there are some Trek’s that people based their sex lives around and it’s not good. It’s a TV show people about space exploration, or it should be.

basing your seduction technique on OS captain kirk maybe not be the best thing.

LOL Jim Kirk was many things but he was NEVER a boy scout.
Seriously though, you are right. It’s a tv show.
Same with politics, I mean I think it’s great to see everyone cooperating to do something exciting and entertaining but you should put lessons of history / ethics / philosophy / economics / science >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> tv show TOS >> DS9 >> ENT >> Young and the Restless >>>>>>> TNG >> VOY

Was it made clear if Kes was two Earth years old? Ocampa could have had an orbit of many Earth years.