The Bard once wrote:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come?
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
It’s one of those questions that no person can ever truly answer. Is there life after death? If there is life after death, what is it like? How is it experience? Is it different for everyone or the same? Is there truly nothing after this life has ended?
“Mortal Coil” attempted to attack this idea head-on. If you don’t remember, the basic run down is that Neelix is killed while on a survey mission. After 19 hours, Seven revives him using her super duct tape (aka Borg nanotechnology). Neelix, who has been painted to be a rather spiritual person, is very upset to realize that he experienced no afterlife. Naturally, he begins to question his religious convictions. Chakotay, the token ‘how-does-this-make-you-feel’ character, talks Neelix into a vision quest. The quest ends with his dead sister mocking him before being killed and his shipmates telling him that life isn’t relevant. He decides he should just end the farce that is his life.
As he’s standing in the transporter getting ready to transport himself into a nebula, Sam Wildman comes in to get him to go take care of Naomi. She’s convinced monsters were in the replicator, and only Neelix can make them go away. So, he goes; he’s clearly decided not to end it all. The end of the episode has Naomi asking Neelix if he’s still sick and asking him if the monster got him. He responds, “Yes, but I chased them away.”
Goodness, that was a lot, wasn’t it?
Right, so we’re supposed to believe that after not experiencing an afterlife, Neelix become atheist? I find this a hard pill to swallow. I do understand what they were trying to do here, but I’ve known people with strong convictions. They would take this as a testing of their faith. I could easily see them saying things like:
“Of course I didn’t see an afterlife, it clearly wasn’t my time. God wasn’t ready for me to see that.”
“Of course I didn’t see an afterlife, I didn’t remain dead. Only those who have passed to the other side can see it, and I can’t imagine God allowing us to remember something that is supposed to be a reward for doing well in this life.”
“Why would I remember something that only my soul can see? In this mortal flesh, I can’t imagine that being the case!”
“God is testing my faith, but I know, in my heart, that, when my time truly does come, I’ll be in His presence.”
I think you can see where I’m going here. I’d say this conviction is even more profound when faith is one of the major things that’s kept you going, which was the case with Neelix.
Think about it, there have been many people whose hearts have stopped on the operating table. They don’t immediately lose their faith just because they don’t recall and afterlife.
What’s worse is that no one really counseled him. I don’t consider Chakotay’s “let’s go on a spirit adventure” to be a counseling session on how to deal with what Neelix experienced.
The jump Neelix made from “I have something to live for because I have no proof of an afterlife but I believe” to “I have nothing to life for because I don’t recall seeing an afterlife” seems really extreme to me. I understand that the writers were trying to go for an example of how faith can shift, but I don’t think they did a great job of it.
What do you think?