PHAGE - 1x05 - 4/5
Now, I don't exactly have it in for Neelix, but he hasn't done much at this point to win my affection. I find him incredibly annoying - and the episode basically starts off with this exact issue. Neelix bullies his way onto the away team, doesn't follow instructions (repeatedly) and then gets fatally injured because of it! I guess this hits a particular nerve for me as my job basically involves helping people who don't follow simple instructions. :P
But this is merely the setup for an episode I enjoy immensely. The Vidiians are a compelling new species - creepy, ruthless but yet also somewhat sympathetic and justifiable. That's what makes a good antagonist - being unable to label them as purely evil, making you sometimes feel sorry for them and at other times despising them intently. They are complex and realistic - not simply Moustache Twirlers. Plus Cully Frederickson's portrayal of Dereth is fantastic - like a creepy mad scientist, but highly intelligent and conveys a sense of culture and intellectualism.
Janeway, the Doctor and Kes are the standout performers this episode: The Doctor is his usual loveable and irreverent self, showing some more growth as a character, with Kes' interactions integral to that development. Janeway is on song the whole time and her speech is, by the way, fantastic:
"They [Vidiians] 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, 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."
The speech is moving and to the point - I love it.
The episode has some medicobabble here and there and I am curious about the validity of just beaming out someone's lungs, and them not dying in 3 seconds. But whatever - I am happy to handwave potential nonsense if they make a good story out of it.
I had a hard time not giving this episode 5/5 marks, but at the end of the day, it's not 100% perfect and has minor issues here and there - but on the whole, I do feel this is Voyager's strongest episode so far.