(written from a Production point of view)
Neelix's lungs are removed by a race that suffers from a deadly phage that is slowly destroying their population prompting them to harvest replacement organs and tissues from other species.
The USS Voyager is en route to a rogue planetoid that Neelix claims has dilithium available for mining. Captain Janeway and Chakotay discuss rations and what they had for breakfast. Janeway has not eaten, and upon entering her private mess hall she finds that Neelix has converted it into a galley, and is busily preparing meals for the crew. Janeway points out that he did not have permission to do so but realizes that given their current replicator and energy issues, she might not have much of a choice.
Janeway arrives on the bridge, and Harry Kim confirms that there are dilithium readings available, while B'Elanna Torres shows subterranean caves with an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere. Chakotay confirms the readings, showing it has a class M atmosphere. Precise readings are difficult at best, but Torres estimates from her console that there are about 500 to 1,000 metric tons of raw ore down on the planetoid. Janeway then sends Chakotay down to the planet's caves with an away team, and advises Torres that she'd better get her refinery on line to prepare for all the ore they are about to bring up. Kim, Chakotay and Neelix (after begging to go) beam down and begin searching for the dilithium.
After beaming down to the caverns, Chakotay discovers with his tricorder that there are several large pockets in the vicinity. They split up and start taking geological scans, and are advised to keep their comm channels open at all times, while staying within fifty meters of their split-off point.
Neelix, while following his tricorder's readings, sweeps the direction in which he's chosen to search. As he's walking along, a wall disperses behind him to reveal a corridor protected by a holographic image and force field, while the occupant leaves his hiding place to go after Neelix.
Chakotay contacts Kim and explains that according to his tricorder readings he should be seeing the dilithium, but that he in fact cannot see anything. Kim, meanwhile, is running a geostratal analysis of the rock, coming to pretty much the same conclusion: no dilithium. Neelix then contacts Chakotay saying that he's found something: a large cavern about twenty meters from his position. Reading a huge dilithium formation, even against Chakotay's warning, he proceeds anyway. Upon entering the cavern, Neelix finds, just like the others, that there is nothing. Exasperated, and scanning about with his tricorder and his arm-mounted flashlight, Chakotay voices his assumption and says that he's had enough. He then calls for Kim and Neelix to head back to the entry point so that they can return to the ship.
Neelix interrupts Chakotay, saying that he has found some unusual readings from a rock face. Traces of organic energy are present, and seemingly about two meters into the rock. Chakotay is insistent in his warning, telling Neelix to get back to where he and Kim are. Ignoring them, Neelix turns away from the rock face as the field disperses and shows a figure standing with a device pointed at Neelix. Unaware of the newcomer, Neelix spins to face the newly-opened hallway, in shock that there's no longer a rock wall. The figure had ducked away into the shadows and lurks close by. As Neelix walks toward the entry to the corridor, the figure once again raises the device behind him. As Neelix spins around to see him, he fires at Neelix.
Chakotay rushes off toward Neelix's location, calling for Kim to follow. They find Neelix on the ground, flailing about, obviously in some kind of shock and unable to breathe. Beaming directly to sickbay, The Doctor scans Neelix before asking for the blood-gas infuser. Ordering Kim to hold Neelix still, he injects Neelix with a hypospray as he starts slipping into a coma. After attaching the infuser, Neelix calms down; however The Doctor states to Chakotay that it will only keep Neelix alive for another hour… his lungs have been removed.
In Sickbay, The Doctor explains to Janeway that he can't give Neelix artificial lungs as the procedure to replicate and implant them is too complex given Talaxian physiology and their current medical abilities, although he may be able to return Neelix' own lungs to his body if they can find them. As The Doctor starts exploring other options and Kes pledges to remain with Neelix, Janeway heads down to the planet while taking a fully-armed security team with her to investigate. It does not take long until Janeway discovers and breaks through the highly sophisticated force field masked as a rock.
On board Voyager, The Doctor attempts to treat Neelix despite Tom Paris' lack of expertise hindering his abilities as medical assistant. The Doctor asks if Paris' biochemistry classes at the Academy included a respiratory series; he replies in the negative. Kes asks if she can donate a lung to Neelix, but The Doctor tells her he's already investigated the idea of a transplant but no-one aboard is a match for a Talaxian. When Paris replicates a medical instrument, a cytoplasmic stimulator, The Doctor has a flash of inspiration and (using data gathered from Neelix' use of the transporter) decides to duplicate the function of Neelix' lungs by creating a pair of holographic lungs to simulate the missing organs. However, The Doctor warns Kes that the downside of this treatment is that Neelix will have to be held perfectly still in a restraint as the computer won't be able to compensate for any body movement whatsoever, meaning that he will effectively be paralyzed for the rest of his life, unless his original lungs are returned or some other solution can be found.
Back on the planetoid, the away team discovers an organ storage facility. No one is there, but there are a large number of organ types stored. Janeway finds a door leading out of the facility and picks up life signs twenty meters ahead. The three eventually catch up with it, and Tuvok shoots it. The alien drops some kind of device but manages to escape by erecting a force field that the away team cannot disrupt. Chakotay reports the alien's ship is leaving orbit and has gone into warp before he could tractor it. Janeway picks up the device and orders Voyager to lay in a course for pursuit, pausing only long enough to beam up the away team.
Meanwhile, The Doctor and Paris start the procedure. Carefully, The Doctor deactivates the infuser and activates the program, Neelix One. After a moment, Neelix stars to breathe and the unprecedented procedure is successful.
Neelix is awake and informed about what happened, though the procedure has never been done before, so information is scarce. Disappointed to be totally forced still, he comments on the aesthetics of the sickbay ceiling and asks for some music. The Doctor leaves Kes to consider his aesthetic needs. Paris is also called away to the bridge, prompting Neelix to worry to Kes about Voyager's helmsman's imagined advances toward her. Kes, however, thinks he's overreacting and won't discuss it further. She promises to be with Neelix.
Meanwhile, Torres and Tuvok study the instrument. Janeway is informed that it is a very sophisticated scanning and analysis device. It stuns the victim and scans at the same time. Even DNA sequencing can be determined. Janeway is a bit suspicious that a species would need such a powerful mobile device like that.
The aliens try to escape in a hollowed out asteroid with Voyager in pursuit. Tuvok, anticipating Janeway's next move, warns her about the course of action she is about to undertake. She's surprised he knows her so well, but then goes ahead and orders Lieutenant Paris to take Voyager into the asteroid.
While in the asteroid, the Voyager's sensors can't penetrate very far, so it will take awhile to find the ship. However, the ion trail is still detectable.
Meanwhile, Neelix, alone except for The Doctor, is having trouble staying still. He needs him to scratch an itch for him above his left eyebrow, then tries to talk to him, but then he finally starts to hyperventilate, demanding to be let out. Unable to accommodate him, The Doctor finally sedates him instead. Kes comes by to see him and, waiting for him to wake up, talks to The Doctor, noting he is very frustrated. The Doctor admits that, not just with Neelix, he's frustrated at his permanent position as the ship's doctor with no staff. Kes successfully comforts him, saying he'll learn to adapt beyond his program.
Back on the asteroid, Tuvok discovers a chamber ahead. On entering, there seem to be numerous reflections of the alien ship and Voyager. Unable to tell which one of the ships is the real one, Chakotay devises a plan to use Voyager's phasers on low power like a search light to find the hostile ship. The beam will either shoot out the entrance, bounce back to Voyager, or be stopped by the other ship. After slowly sweeping the phaser beam around, it stops on the hull of the right ship. Quickly, Janeway orders the occupants beamed aboard and Tuvok brings a security team to meet them in transporter room three. Upon arrival, the two humanoids are found to be horribly deformed.
Once found, the aliens, who call themselves Vidiians, surrender. They explain that their civilization has been plagued for centuries by a terrible disease, the phage, and that as a result they often use body parts of other species to replenish and/or replace their own degraded ones. They prefer to use cadavers, but if pressed, will steal from the living if they can't find a body in time, a situation that they are not proud of. Dereth, one of the Vidiians in custody states that he has already transformed Neelix' lungs for transplantation into Motura and thus is unable to retransplant Neelix' lungs back without killing him. Janeway is outraged at what the Vidiians have done, but she is not willing to kill Motura to save her crewmember. Unable to turn the two over for trial, and unwilling to carry them both in the brig for the forseeable future Janeway is left with no choice but to let them both go free. However, she gives both of them a message to take back to their society and makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that even the slightest transgression against Voyager and its crew will be met with the deadliest force.
Grateful at the captain's generosity, Motura convinces Dereth to offer their extensive medical knowledge to help try and save Neelix. Later in sickbay, they realize that every one of the senior staff that has been scanned is capable of donating a lung, which they explain could then be transformed to be compatible to Talaxian physiology, but it is Kes who steps in as the donor. The operation is a success and Captain Janeway releases the two Vidiians. As Kes and Neelix recover, Janeway gives him permission to continue with the galley while The Doctor plans to train Kes to back-up and eventually replace Tom Paris as his medical assistant.
- "Captain's log, stardate 48532.4. We're on our way to a rogue planetoid which Mr. Neelix tells us is an extremely rich source of raw dilithium. If he's right, this could go a long way toward easing our power shortage."
- "Captain's log, supplemental. We are pursuing the alien ship from the moon. They are not responding to hails, and it appears that our two ships are evenly matched for speed."
- "Captain's log, supplemental. The aliens have successfully transplanted one of Kes's lungs into Neelix. The dampening field has been deactivated, and I have allowed them to beam back to their vessel. We are resuming a course home."
"We don't know how it happened… but someone has surgically removed his lungs."
- - Janeway, to Kes, about Neelix's condition
"They may have found a way to ignore the moral implications of what you are doing, but I have no such luxury. I don't have the freedom to kill you to save another. My culture finds that to be a reprehensible and entirely unacceptable act. If we were closer to home I would lock you up, and I'd turn you over to my authorities for trial. But I don't even have that ability here, and I am not prepared to carry you forever in our brig. So I see no other alternative, but to let you go."
- - Kathryn Janeway, to Dereth and Motura
"If I ever encounter your kind again, I will do whatever is necessary to protect my people from this harvesting of yours. Any aggressive actions against this ship or its crew will be met by the deadliest force. Is that clear?"
- - Kathryn Janeway, telling Dereth and Motura to take a message to their people
"His lungs have been removed."
- - The Doctor, on Neelix's predicament
"But… a hologram is just a projection of light held in a magnetic containment field. There's no real matter involved."
(Paris is slapped by The Doctor)
"Now, you hit me."
- - Tom Paris expresses skepticism on holographic lungs for Neelix while The Doctor provides a demonstration
"The man drives a 700,000-ton starship, so someone thinks he'd make a good medic."
- - The Doctor, on Tom Paris
"First they tell me there's no doctor, so I have to be on call 24 hours a day and then they tell me there's no nurses, so I have no one to assist me."
"I thought Tom Paris was assigned to you."
"Like I said, no one to assist me."
- - The Doctor and Kes
"Indefinitely? You mean I… could be in here the rest of my life?"
"But we're trying to find the aliens that did this to you. The captain is doing everything she can."
"Well… hem, if I'm going be in here a while, now is as good a time as any to tell you. Your ceiling is hideous."
"I didn't design the room, I just work here."
"Something with a bit of color would help, maybe a nice tapestry or a painting. Could you dim the lights a little?"
"I'm a doctor, mister Neelix, not a decorator."
- - Neelix, The Doctor, and Kes
"Strange, according to my readings, you are not here."
"Believe me, I wish I weren't."
- - Dereth and The Doctor
"He's just one big hormone walking around the ship."
- - Neelix, warning Kes about Tom Paris
"Don't worry, I'm not going to kiss you. I'm only adjusting the restraint."
"I'll try to contain my disappointment."
- - Neelix' sarcastic response to The Doctor
Story and script
- This episode had the working title "Heart & Soul".  The original story idea for the episode, which was pitched by Timothy DeHaas, was that Lieutenant Paris had had his heart blown out by something, so The Doctor equipped him with a holographic replacement. Supervising Producer Brannon Braga commented, "Tim had a wonderful idea, which was that Paris is injured and gets a holographic heart, and we were very captivated by that." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 47) Also remarking on the pitch, Braga stated, "It's a great idea, although the drawback is you can't leave sickbay." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137)
- Star Trek: Voyager's writing team meanwhile had an alien concept in development. Brannon Braga recalled, "Around that time, Jeri [Taylor], Michael [Piller] and I had been batting around the idea of an alien race that gathers organs." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137) Braga elaborated, "It just so happened at that time we were brainstorming about the Vidiians, a race of aliens who harvest flesh and organs." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 47) Remembering how they came up with this notion, Jeri Taylor stated, "We sat around a number of days talking about new adversaries. 'Who's interesting? What's interesting? What's an agenda we find interesting?' En route we came to these people who harvested organs. We'd gone through cannibalism and a lot more bizarre things and then we finally hit on the idea of a culture that was dying of an incurable virus that would go to any lengths to make themselves and their species stay alive." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137)
- Two historical points of reference influenced the producers' thinking, at about this time: Jeri Taylor originally, according to Brannon Braga, suggested the Mayans which – with their seemingly horrific and eccentric culture, including Human sacrifice and cannibalism, but their ideological reasons for such bloodshed – provided an inspiration, and Braga himself thereafter began to speculate about how Humanity and, in particular, Europeans would currently be if the Bubonic Plague had never been eradicated. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, pp. 34 & 40, et al.) Regarding his motives at the time, Braga remembered, "I thought it would be interesting to create a species that was really creepy-looking and Frankenstein-like, with cobbled together body parts and they steal organs, but they had a very sympathetic back-story." ("Braving the Unknown: Season 2", VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
- The desperation of the aliens attracted the producers to using them as so-called villains. Jeri Taylor explained, "The idea of a race that does really unspeakably horrible things but does them simply because they're trying to survive, we thought was a very complex kind of agenda [....] If you start with a premise like that, it's impossible to make them completely evil because their motivation is completely understandable. If anything, it's more scary if you realize that underneath that grotesque, deformed body there's someone who was once young, strong and beautiful." Michael Piller offered, "I liked the idea of an alien culture who are a civilized people who are forced to do uncivilized things in order to survive." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137) Brannon Braga was also eager to utilize the idea of the organ-harvesting aliens. He enthused, "That was a great concept for an alien species. Very rarely do you stumble on something that has real resonance." (Star Trek: Voyager Companion, p. 42)
- For the malady that the aliens were suffering from, it was decided that an actually existing virus would be referenced. Science Consultant André Bormanis recalled, "We wanted to suggest a really vicious kind of a virus, something that ravaged this whole population of people, the Vidiians, and had driven them to this desperate situation where they had to harvest organs from other compatible species in order to survive. And a bacteria phage is a real thing [....] That was a good choice for describing the deadly pathogen, the virus that had come so close to doing in the Vidiians for good." ("Real Science With Andre Bormanis", VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
- The aliens were originally known as "the Phages." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 40) Their collective name was later changed to "Vaphorans," which they were called even in the shooting script; the change to "Vidiians" was not made until after the episode was written. (Star Trek: Voyager Companion, p. 20)
- After coming up with this alien concept, the series' writers decided to try combining it with the pitched story idea that involved The Doctor holographically replacing Paris' heart, allowing the episode to have more varied physical settings than mostly sickbay. Brannon Braga noted, "We said, 'Well, what better thing than this?' and we put those ideas together to see what we'd come up with." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137) He elaborated, "[The idea of the Vidiians] seemed like the perfect match for Tim's story. We went ahead and gave the concept to Tim, and he merged it with the heart idea." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 47)
- Brannon Braga eventually refined the circumstances of the Vidiians' victim. He recalled, "Ultimately, I ended up changing the heart to lungs and Paris to Neelix." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137) Braga clarified, "The lungs seemed a little less cornball than the heart, so that's what happened." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 47)
- Writer Skye Dent, a former journalist who had pitched several other story ideas to Brannon Braga, was asked to further develop the premise of this episode. Braga explained, "Skye Dent, a freelance writer, did the first draft for us. We like to try our freelancers on freelance scripts, and as is common with freelance scripts, it needed some work." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 47) Dent herself said of the Vidiians, "I […] envisioned them as being very arrogant people. And even though they knew what they were doing was wrong in terms of the actual action, they were very confident that because they were culturally superior, they were totally justified in killing people and taking their organs." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137)
- Skye Dent was immediately drawn to Neelix as the center of the story, due to his relationship with Kes. The writer stated, "They were the only two on board that have any sort of defined relationship. I wanted to do a script that would affect one person and that would tear at the emotions of another so that you would see how it would affect her. I didn't want Janeway or Chakotay or any of the others to be injured because at that point nobody cared about them as much. We cared about Neelix and Kes immediately because we could see how much they cared about each other." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137)
- Skye Dent drew on personal experience to influence the way she wrote about Neelix's predicament, thinking about a time when she had first moved to California, had been learning how to parachute, but had then started to find out about people who were paraplegics due to parachuting accidents. "That's part of what this story is about," she related. "Because death isn't that scary to me – having to live as a paraplegic would be even scarier to most Human beings. And that's how Neelix feels." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137)
- Brannon Braga continued to work on the script, following Skye Dent's input. He remarked, "[Skye Dent] did some very nice things with the script, but ultimately I did some work on it." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 47) During September, October and November, 1994, Brannon Braga was well along with writing the teleplay for this episode, after having completed the teleplay for VOY: "Parallax". (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, p. 323) Braga came up with such one-liners as, "His lungs have been removed!" He exclaimed, "I wrote 'em! C'mon, it's a TV show; it's supposed to be fun." Braga added, "'His lungs have been removed!' was a fun line that I knew would sound great coming out of Robert Picardo's mouth. That's classic Trek." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 47)
- The episode's final draft script was submitted on 11 November 1994. 
Cast and characters
- Because the aliens of this episode were originally collectively named Vaphorans, Dereth clearly mouths the word "Vaphoran" in Voyager's transporter room; evidently, "Vidiian" was subsequently looped over it. Broadcast closed captions of this episode also use "Vaphoran". The change from that collective term to "Vidiians" was made when it was realized that no two performers could pronounce "Vaphoran" in the same exact way as each other. (Beyond the Final Frontier, p. 276)
- Brannon Braga enjoyed the character development that features in this episode. He said of the installment, "Some really nice character work there – you can see the characters blossoming." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137) Braga was particularly pleased with the episode's portrayal of Janeway. "Like any show, we were trying to develop the characters," he recalled, "and the 'Phage' episode was good for Janeway. It allowed her to kind of be protective of her crew." (VOY Season 1 DVD special features)
- Actress Kate Mulgrew found difficulty in acting out the particular scene wherein Janeway – realizing what the Vidiians are doing – is both repulsed by and sympathetic to their actions. Of the scene, Jeri Taylor remarked, "We thought Janeway was put in a true dilemma when she realized what she was dealing with. In fact, Kate Mulgrew was herself fighting tears when that scene was being shot, when she heard the story of those people. She, as a person, was so genuinely affected that she was really fighting not to break down. I think that comes across in the portrayal of a woman who is torn and struggling and has great sympathy for these aliens, yet she must say, 'If you ever come near my people again, I'm going to wipe you all out.'" (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, pp. 137-138)
- Director Winrich Kolbe was impressed by the way in which Kate Mulgrew persevered with the episode. Kolbe stated, "That was the first episode to really present […] an acting challenge to Kate. She had to deal with something that was rather decrepit and ugly looking, and had a philosophy that didn't really agree with ours [....] I thought Kate did a hell of a job." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 15, p. 12)
- Kate Mulgrew was also ultimately very proud of both this episode and her character's role in it. "I felt very good about that one," she enthused. "The essence of Voyager's guts is an episode like 'Phage.' Janeway had to make ethical decisions, and I loved playing that double-edged sword between sacrificing Neelix' lungs or allowing another species to continue to survive." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 23) Again considering Janeway's interactions with the Vidiians, Mulgrew commented, "To them, [organ thieving] is ethically correct. How then does Janeway even talk to these people? And I loved that, because there is poignancy to that." (Star Trek: Voyager Companion, p. 43)
- Executive Story Editor Kenneth Biller saw additional character development in areas other than in the persona of Janeway. "It's also an episode where you started to get to know the doctor," he said, "and the character work that went on between him and Neelix was fantastic." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137) Believing that he himself and Neelix actor Ethan Phillips had very different "rhythms" (such as with delivering dialogue), Robert Picardo (actor of The Doctor) remarked, "It's fun to counterpoint us, like they did really for the first time in our exchanges in 'Phage.'" (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 10, p. 12)
- The predicament Neelix finds himself in, in this episode, provided actor Ethan Phillips with certain ways to play the character. He explained, "It gave me a chance to display a lot of vulnerability in the guy and show the relationship with Kes progressing as he gets more into what he does on the ship as a chef and a guide." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137)
- Robert Picardo found this a memorable episode for the dialogue it required him to speak, in his role as The Doctor. Picardo called the installment "a very technical episode" that was "the first time I had huge dialogue requirements, since the way the character spoke and the way he [verbally] spewed technology was pretty breathless." (SFX, issue 270, p. 65) Picardo enjoyed a particular scene involving The Doctor and Tom Paris. The actor enthused, "The scene in 'Phage' where I slap Paris in the face and then his hand passes through my head is a great Star Trek moment, a moment you couldn't do in any other television show!" (Star Trek Monthly issue 18, pp. 56 & 57) Picardo found The Doctor's reply to Paris unsuccessfully attempting to assault him was also memorable. (SFX, issue 270, p. 65)
- Paris actor Robert Duncan McNeill appreciated the relevance of this installment. "It's a very timely episode, for many reasons," he remarked. (Starlog #213)
Props, sets, and makeup
- Senior Illustrator/Technical Consultant Rick Sternbach worked on the designs of both the blood-gas infuser (a circular gizmo that The Doctor attaches to the left side of Neelix' head) and the Vidiian tool/weapon. (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 1, p. 72)
- According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 20), the subterranean Vidiian corridor of this episode was a reuse of the hidden corridor that crew members find behind a holographic barn in "Caretaker".
- Makeup supervisor Michael Westmore designed the final look of the Vidiians. Of the starting-point for the alien designs, he noted, "The script for 'Phage' explains that these were a race of people whose skin and organs were rotting, and that they had to collect skin and organs from around the universe to preserve their race." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 2, p. 41) Ultimately, despite each Vidiian's head resembling a patchwork quilt of alien skins, Westmore decided to use merely a single mask for each Vidiian, each mask covering their respective wearer's entire head. The different skin textures were sculpted onto each mask, and then painted with a variety of colors. "It was all sculpted into one piece with different textures," Westmore related, "so it looked like overlapping chunks of stuff. [The actors playing Vidiians] also wear dentures and contact lenses." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 87)
- One task involved in creating the general alien look was to differentiate it from past Star Trek makeup designs. Jeri Taylor stated, "Working with Michael Westmore, we made sure they looked different from what we had seen on Star Trek and Deep Space Nine before." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 151) Michael Westmore ultimately felt that he and the producers had succeeded at making the Vidiians look unique for Star Trek. Midway through the first season of Voyager, Westmore enthused, "The aliens from 'Phage' are the most interesting ones that we've run into as far as a new concept and look, and something totally different. It's scary, and yet there's this element of survival involved as well." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 2, p. 41)
- Both Jeri Taylor and Brannon Braga were ultimately very impressed by the alien designs. "Michael Westmore did an outstanding makeup job on them," Taylor said. "They are truly grisly-looking people without looking like horror-monster-movie stuff. We were real pleased with that." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137) Similarly, Brannon Braga thought the Vidiians ultimately turned out to be "great-looking aliens, really creepy." (Star Trek: Voyager Companion, p. 42) He elaborated, "I thought the makeup by Michael Westmore was just wonderful." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 47)
- Winrich Kolbe directed this episode straight after having directed VOY: "Caretaker" and immediately before preparing to direct "Eye of the Needle". (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, p. 321) This Voyager episode was one of his favorite episodes of any Star Trek series he had directed, as he thought the storyline "takes aliens off that pedestal of being weird and gives them some humanity." He continued by saying of the Vidiians, "We are dealing with a very grotesque exterior but a very Human emotion. These are a people who are basically dying and are trying desperately to save their species." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137) Kolbe related the aliens' plight to present-day real-world societal issues. "They harvest body parts in order to maintain their own race, which begs the question, 'How far are we willing to go to preserve ourselves?'" Kolbe mused. "Storywise, that was a very interesting proposition." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 15, p. 12) He also said, "It's something we're very aware of, given organ transplants these days." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137)
- This episode's production period included 12 December 1994. ("A Day in the Life of Ethan Phillips", VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
- The documentary featurette "A Day in the Life of Ethan Phillips" contains a two-shot of Robert Beltran and Ethan Phillips performing the moment from the teaser wherein Neelix, wishing to join the first away team to the planet, appeals to Chakotay for permission to come along. The featurette also seems to imply that the performance footage shown took place on 12 December 1994, although this implication remains inconclusive.
- The exterior of the asteroid that the Vidiians use for cover, in this episode, was a six-foot painted hunk of acetone-etched Styrofoam that had previously been used to represent asteroid Gamma-601, the main asteroid in an asteroid belt shown in TNG: "The Pegasus", for which the model had been created. Joe Bauer, the visual effects supervisor on both this episode and the earlier TNG installment, simply used a different side of the asteroid model for this outing. However, other shots of the asteroid in this installment incorporate stock effects footage that was also previously used in "The Pegasus". (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 83) For example, two shots of the exterior of the asteroid here, seen via Voyager's viewscreen, clearly incorporate the recycled footage from "The Pegasus", as does a single panning shot of the narrow passageway that Voyager moves along, shortly after entering the asteroid.
- Creating the "hall of mirrors" effect in the asteroid's interior proved to be a challenge of a magnitude requiring the ingenuity and computing power of Amblin Imaging. Using conventional model photography to try to visualize the effect of the multiple reflections would have taken several weeks and a mathematical genius to plot each angle of reflection. Due to this difficulty, Amblin instead visualized the scene by reusing the digital model of Voyager and creating the reflections using CGI. Joe Bauer commented, "We basically built the entire scene with CGI. [Computer Graphics Supervisor] John Gross and I sat for hours and days and just played with different sizes of mirrors and Voyagers and the position of the camera until we got the kinds of reflections and sizes of ships and recurring reflections going back in all directions. If our ship moved, all the reflections moved. They are all genuine reflections. The great thing about CGI is the camera and lights are invisible. In most cases the camera was actually between the ship and the mirrors, but since the camera is invisible you just see the ship." Both Bauer and Visual Effects Producer Dan Curry were slightly unsatisfied with the digital Voyager in the foreground, however, so they photographed the studio model of the ship to be composited over the CG Voyager. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 81)
- Depicting the Vidiian starship used both a frequently reused studio model that had originally been built for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as well as a CG model that appears only in this episode and was evidently slightly different from the physical model. The most noticeable aspect of the reuse is the craft's four engines. (; Delta Quadrant, p. 20)
- The web of reflected phaser fire was another combined use of digital effects methods. A phaser "tube" was created within the CGI asteroid interior and was programmed to correctly reflect off each of the mirrored surfaces inside the cavernous space. Joe Bauer later created, to help make the shot more believable, some foreground phaser bolts, creating these with the more traditional Harry computer animation. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 81)
Reception and aftermath
- Brannon Braga was very pleased with how the teleplay for this episode eventually turned out. Of the script's final form, he proudly remarked, "One of my better efforts." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137) In fact, Braga was so proud of his own input on the script that he decided to take credit for his work. "I don't always take teleplay credit, but in this case, I was very proud of the work I did on that show." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 47) Braga was very pleased with the overall production of the episode, as well. He remarked, "Music, make-up, direction – this was one of those episodes where I felt everything came together." (Star Trek Monthly issue 7, p. 9) In particular, Braga was extremely happy with the depiction of the Vidiians. Commenting on the effectiveness of the aliens, he stated, "In my opinion, the Phage aliens were our first successful aliens… on Voyager." ("Braving the Unknown: Season 2", VOY Season 2 DVD special features) He also said, "I think we were very successful about creating, in just one episode, some interesting aliens who had a nice feel to them, even though they're not on screen a lot." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 5, p. 47)
- In agreement with Brannon Braga's positive comments, Ken Biller opined, "This is a great Star Trek episode. The aliens that Brannon created were so interesting and so different from anything we had seen." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137)
- On the other hand, Skye Dent had reservations with the way the aliens were portrayed in the episode's coda. She explained, "Things definitely changed from the time I handed in my script, because when I saw it on the screen, the villains at the end just seemed very wimpy to me, even though they were saying the same dialogue I had written." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137)
- This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 8.5 million homes, and a 12% share.
- Cinefantastique gave this installment 3 and a half out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 34)
- In their unofficial reference book Trek Navigator: The Ultimate Guide to the Entire Trek Saga (p. 175), co-writer Mark A. Altman rates this episode 2 and a half out of 4 stars (defined as "average") while fellow co-writer Edward Gross ranks the installment 4 out of 4 stars (defined as "Classic!")
- The unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 22) gives the episode a rating of 5 out of 10.
- In the lead-up to this episode's VHS release, Star Trek Magazine reviewer Stuart Clark mentioned this episode in a positive light, referring to it as a "humdinger." (Star Trek Monthly issue 6, p. 62) In Star Trek Magazine's retrospective "Ultimate Guide", the magazine gave this episode 5 out of 5 Starfleet-style arrowhead insignia, also naming it the best episode of Voyager's first season. (Star Trek Magazine issue 164, p. 29)
- Among the items from this episode which were sold off on the It's a Wrap! sale and auction on eBay was a Vidiian facial mask used for the character of Dereth. 
- After being created and introduced in this episode, the Vidiians subsequently appear in the later first season installment "Faces", the Season 2 episodes "Lifesigns", "Deadlock" and "Resolutions", the third season installment "Coda" and finally in the Season 6 episode "Fury". André Bormanis noted, "It was a species that was so interesting that we had to come back and revisit them, and look at some other dimensions of surgery and the transplant technology. And certainly, plastic surgery is a booming business." Indirectly referring to episodes such as "Faces" and "Lifesigns", Bormanis added, "One would think that a species that was sort of reduced to living like this would have some sort of issues about their appearance; how they relate to their bodies and so forth. And that was something we explored." ("Real Science With Andre Bormanis", VOY Season 2 DVD special features)
- This episode has repeatedly been likened to the Star Trek: The Original Series third seasonepisode "Spock's Brain". Ethan Phillips stated, "I was very pleased with 'Phage' […] although everyone on the Internet kept saying it was a ripoff of the original show's 'Spock's Brain.' Really, there are only 32 plots in the whole world, but there are infinite variations that you can play on them. I know this is TV and everything should be brand new and special, but we're going to see variations on things that were done before. We are going to overlap." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 3, p. 21) "Someone compared it to 'Spock's Brain' or something like that," Michael Piller commented, before adding, "I don't know about that." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 137)
- According to Brannon Braga, the protectiveness over Voyager's crew that Janeway demonstrates in this episode "is a trait that would develop more profoundly as the series went on." Braga continued, "She was, really, the mother of the crew. She was protecting them. She was trying to get them home. And that was her first opportunity to really do that." (VOY Season 1 DVD special features) Winrich Kolbe likewise felt that this installment was not only the first episode to present Kate Mulgrew with an acting challenge but was also the first to present "a personal challenge to Janeway". (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 15, p. 12)
- This episode marks the first appearance of Neelix's galley. Although the episode establishes that he created the galley by converting Janeway's private dining room without her permission, the galley went on to remain aboard the ship and become an oft used hang-out spot for the series' main characters, in the same way that the Ten Forward lounge is used in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Production designer Richard James stated, "The scenes that would have been played out in Ten Forward will basically be played out in the Mess Hall. It started out as an officer's mess, but now it's just the Mess Hall. We didn't want to be elitist, so now I think any rank will be allowed there." Noting that there would also be a working kitchen, James said, "We have to put in a kitchen where [Neelix] can do his thing." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 1, p. 70)
- This is the first of several Voyager episodes in which The Doctor uses the snowclone "I'm a doctor, not a...", a catchphrase that was originated by Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the original Star Trek series. Of the line here, Robert Picardo recalled, "When I read that script I just thought it was a joke. Then I was told on the set this is a Bones line. I guess I remember him saying lines like that." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 40)
- While incapacitated in sickbay, Neelix asks if The Doctor is programmed to sing. He would later do that very thing in the VOY Season 3 episode "The Swarm".
- This episode marks the debut of SIMs beacons on Star Trek: Voyager. (Delta Quadrant, p. 20)
- In keeping with continuity, the fact that Neelix has – following his operation in this episode – only one lung was never forgotten throughout the series' entire seven-year run.
- The Doctor asserts that Neelix would only survive about an hour while supported by the blood-gas infuser, but the current-day equivalent, Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, has existed since the 1960s and can support a patient for up to a month before significant risk of complications. Heart-lung machines have existed for even longer, since the 19th century, and can support a patient for several hours. In addition, artificial lungs have been successfully prototyped in animals. The apparent inability of 24th century technology to provide such solutions in this episode may be accounted for by the complexity of Talaxian physiology, which is somewhat supported by dialog.
- This episode begins the story arc of Neelix's jealousy towards Paris over Kes, which would culminate in the second-season episode "Parturition".
- Reference to 47: Shortly after Kes arrives in Sick Bay, The Doctor reports on Neelix' condition stating that "the blood-gas infuser will keep him alive for another 47 minutes"
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 1.3, catalog number VHR 4003, 7 August 1995
- As part of the VOY Season 1 DVD collection
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Biggs-Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Jennifer Lien as Kes
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Tuvok
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
- Derek Anthony as operations ensign
- Gunnel Eriksson as operations officer
- Coleman McClary as operations officer
- Louis Ortiz as Culhane
- Beth Rogers as Jarvis
- Garret Sato as operations officer
- John Tampoya as Kashimuro Nozawa
- Debra Waters as command ensign
- Unknown actor as Michael Parsons
47; ability; accident; aesthetics; alloy; amusement; anatomy; artificial lung; asparagus; asteroid; atmosphere; authority; azimuth; biobed; bio-electrical signature; bio-probe; bio-scanner; biomatter; blood-gas infuser; blood stream; brig; captain's private dining room; carbon dioxide; cave; cellular toxicity; chartreuse; class 3 humanoid; class M; claustrophobia; cooking; counselor; cream; culture; cytoplasmic stimulator; dampening field; darvot fritter; decorator; degree (angle); degree (temperature); dilithium; dilithium matrix; DNA; DNA sequencing; door; educator; egg; eggs Benedict; electromagnetic interference; emergency power; epidermal tissue; explorer; Federation; freedom; hall of mirrors; hologram; holographic projection; holographic emitter; honatta; hour; hydroponics; hyperventilation; identification matrix; illusion; immune system; immunogenicity; immunotechnology; impulse reactor; Intrepid-class; ion trail; isotropic restraint; itch; Kazon; KLS stabilizer; lightheaded; liver; lung; lung capacity; magnetic containment field; medical assistant; medical ethics; mess hall; metric ton; minute; moral; murder; Neelix One; neural resonator; neutronium; nitrogen; oatmeal; Ocampa; ocular nerve fiber; organ; organic energy; oxygen; phage; phase modulation; phaser; phenomenon; physiology; pulmonary organ; pulmonary scanner; physiology; quantum imaging scanner; ration pack 5; Rectilian vulture; red alert; respiratory series; respiratory system; rock face; sculptor; searchlight; senior officer; shock; spicy; spinal column; Starfleet; Starfleet Academy; strawberry; Talaxian; tomato; tractor beam; transporter; trial; tricorder log; tricorder operations manual; type 3 phaser; vehicle status; Vidiian; Vidiian Sodality; Vidiian starship; visiting hours; Yallitian
- "Phage" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Phage" at Wikipedia
- "Phage" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
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