can you cite support for that, your idea that Neelix was more popular in early seasons, and more popular than Kim or Kes? I really tend to doubt that. I remember in the early days of the interwebs when there were polls of Voyager fans, and Neelix routinely came in as most unpopular character.
I remember that too. It was almost like the "anti-Wesley" campaigns some years earlier.
Neelix got a lot of criticizm and there were also some debates about Janeway and Paris, many liked them but there were those who didn't. Kim was criticized for being boring. As for Kes, she wasn't the most popular character but definitely not the most disliked either.
Ditto. I always assumed Neelix was kept on the show because Phillips was friends with TPTB. I don't have any support for that, it's just that I couldn't think of any other reason to keep him despite his lack of popularity. After all, the audience hated Wesley and he was written off.
I'd trade Neelix for Kes in a heartbeat. The Kes character was just starting to get really interesting when she was got her superpowers and went away. Warlord was just so damn good.
Her superpowers was just a way to have a plot device to get her off the ship. She hadn't used her powers and refused to do so after "Coldfire". She said so at the end of the ep. and in "The Gift" again explains how she hadn't been using them in a while. TPTB had no intention of using Kes' abilities to any great degree because it made her too powerful, therefore there'd be no challenge Voyager would encounter she couldn't fix. Plus we saw how every time she'd used them, she'd cause something dangerous to happen.
This is another reason why she was written into a corner. They gave her abilities that she could never use.
If Kes has the ability as in "Fury" to transverse space and time, then she had the ability to get Voyager home by season 4. Couldn't have that, so she had to go.