Mortal Coil… Missed the Mark?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Voyager' started by Adm_Hawthorne, Apr 7, 2010.

  1. Adm_Hawthorne

    Adm_Hawthorne Admiral Admiral

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    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?
     
  2. teya

    teya Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I spent a dozen years of my career in oncology, and in my experience, as many people ditch their faith when confronted with the futility of life as are strengthened by the experience.


    And Chakotay's spiritual background was handled so poorly in this episode it makes my skin crawl.
     
  3. Adm_Hawthorne

    Adm_Hawthorne Admiral Admiral

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    Well, to be fair, Chakotay's spirituality was handled poorly most of the time. Do you recall he was a vegan? No? Neither did the writers three episodes later when he's hankerin' for a steak.
     
  4. teya

    teya Vice Admiral Admiral

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    They never established him as a vegan--just that he didn't eat meat.


    That went back and forth...


    The pathetic thing is, I don't know of any Native American tradition that includes vegetarianism. Eating meat is part of the cycle of life. Turning NAs into vegetarians is Jeri Taylor slapping her New Agey nonsense on us.


    So, yeah, I agree. Chakotay's spirituality was handled poorly 99.9 percent of the time.
     
  5. Adm_Hawthorne

    Adm_Hawthorne Admiral Admiral

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    My memory is fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure he says a vegan in "Unity", and I'm pretty sure that Neelix says something to that effect in "Workforce". I also think there was a mention of it in "State of Flux", but I'm going to have to dig through scripts. :confused:
     
  6. Lynx

    Lynx Vice Admiral Admiral

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    First of all, Chakotay never stated that he was a vegan. In "Unity" he said "I'm a vegetarian".

    Not to mention that the comment itself may have been some sort of joke, regarding the fact that Riley said something about longing for Texas steaks and regretted that she couldn't offer Chakotay something similar.

    teya wrote:
    I agree on that one. Sometimes Taylor's own views did creep too much into the stories. There are some examples of that in otherwise good books like "Mosaic" and "Pathways" too.
     
  7. exodus

    exodus Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I think the message is: What happens after death isn't as important as what we do while we are alive here and now.

    Even if Neelix did loose faith in an afterlife, Sam Wildman was telling him he had friends that needed him here and that should be where his focus is. Even Seven in her short time on Voy. saw that Neelix at the time had resources the crew required.

    Death and the afterlife aren't important as the impressions you make while alive.
    Look at Sisko, he was spending every waking moment trapped in the moment of his wife's death and his life and that of his sons were just(years) focusing on an issue that wasn't progressive. Neelix showed that he was spending his whole life just waiting for the moment of his death. He honestly thought dying would make him happy because he'd be with his family again. He didn't care about those in the world of the living that needed him now. Death comes for us all but we can't live in that moment 24/7, that's not what a gift such as life is for.
     
  8. Adm_Hawthorne

    Adm_Hawthorne Admiral Admiral

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    Thing is… if he was waiting for the moment of his death to be happy and he didn’t really care about what was going on around him, I don’t feel he would have created the bonds with the Wildmens to begin with, you know?

    I mean, if he really was only waiting to die, then why bother to continue to live to begin with? Why fight for survival this whole time? Why not just fly into a black hole and be done with it?

    Also, Lynx, vegan is short for vegetarian. ;)
     
  9. Smiley

    Smiley Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    "Mortal Coil" does succeed in making the audience ask some of the big questions. Neelix's attitude shift may seem a little extreme, but I chalk it up to him being an alien who is on a 45-minute show.
     
  10. M

    M Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, I guess the fact that no-one counselled Neelix may have something to do with there not being a counsellor on the Voyager. ;)

    I actually felt it was kinda natural for Chakotay to be the one who decided to see after Neelix.

    Huh, why must Chakotay's vegetarianism be a part of him being a Native American? It's certainly not established like that in the series.

    Not sure whether you are joking, but no, vegan sure is not short for vegetarian.

    Agreed. Having Neelix doubting his belief system was just the means of telling a more important story. And I think the episode did this rather well.
     
  11. Withers

    Withers Captain

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    I didn't like this episode. Whatever the message had the potential to be they botched it and made it unrecognizable in the same vein that Threshold was supposed to be suggestive of the idea that evolution doesn't necessarily equate to bigger, faster, smarter, stronger. Both of these episodes had a message... it just didn't come through as strongly as the creators presumably wanted.

    The potential message

    is the set up for a good episode. Unfortunately, elements like the show being about Neelix, Seven of Nine using Borg magic for the 100billionth time, and Naomi Wildman being the voice of...wisdom, made the message irrelevant and the episode essentially... crap.

    "Missed the mark" is the perfect way of describing what happened here.



    -Withers-​
     
  12. Adm_Hawthorne

    Adm_Hawthorne Admiral Admiral

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    I somehow doubt that the EMH couldn't have at least given it a go. I'm sure there's a subroutine out there somewhere to help him with that. Being counseled and having a counselor can be two different things. Sometimes, having more than one person to be a sounding board can be a healthy mental reality check. At the very least, having more than Chakotay really chat with him could have done a world of good.

    I can't help but feel that, if he was really so set on ending what he now considered a futile life, he wouldn't have stopped just because Naomi was scared. So, what? He has the realization that people really do care about him, thus he has purpose. I get what they were trying to say.

    All I'm sayin' is that I feel it was a poorly executed point because of the quick extremes Neelix went through in a relatively short amount of time.

    Re: Vegan - not intending to offend, though I do consider it a form of vegetarianism. Though, I'm pulling my own thread off topic here, so I think I'm going to stop while I'm behind.
     
  13. teya

    teya Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No, it isn't.


    A vegan neither eats nor uses any animal products.


    Vegetarians can be ovo- , lacto- (eats eggs, eats dairy respectively) or both or neither.
     
  14. exodus

    exodus Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Survivor guilt.
    Living was his self punishment for not being in the war to either save them or die with them.
    As fasr as his turn araound time, Neelix is good at putting up a front about his feelings.
    He was over it on the surface, the panic attack he has over Niomi in "Once Upon a Time" shows those feelings are still there under the surface.


    BTW, my understand is "vegan" & "vegitarian" are two different things.
    A "vegan" doesn't eat any animal products. No meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, etc.
    A vegitarian eats no meat but does still eat eggs, milk, etc.
     
  15. exodus

    exodus Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    That's your opinion.
    I disagree completely.
    Neelix' whole persona is about struggling to survive, enduring and not taking stuff for granted.
    Everything he did was to remind the crew how good they had it dispite being lost and far from their families.
    He had to remind Seven what a privilage it was to have written records of her parents.
    He had to show Be'Lanna that being Klingon should be a cherished part of her heritage.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2010
  16. M

    M Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I guess that's one way to interpret what the episode tried to convey. Personally, I think it's intended to comment on the value of religious beliefs. Neelix realizes that, although his belief may be factually wrong, it did help him in many ways throughout his life. The real worth of faith hasn't anything to with how much of it is actually true, but with how it can help in certain situations. And I think the episode succeeds in getting that point across.

    Why? :confused:

    I'm a bit fuzzy on the details, but what do you mean by that?

    No, neither is a form of the other. Both are philosophies regarding the human diet and the consumption of animal resources.
     
  17. exodus

    exodus Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I think it has more to do with the power faith than religious beliefs, just like "Sacred Ground" did.
    You don't have to be religious to understand the strength in the faith of will.
    An Athiests faith in ones-self to over come all obticles in their path of life is still the power of faith.
     
  18. Adm_Hawthorne

    Adm_Hawthorne Admiral Admiral

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    He was definitely a clingy one. Lynx can help me out here, but wasn’t that part of Kes’s reasons for breaking up with him? I know she was known to say he was being too ‘over protective’.

    So, now Neelix is going to go off and find a reason for living by ignoring his guilt, pain, and faithlessness. That’s healthy.

    Why not have the character have more of a crisis of faith and come out stronger? Why have him abandon it altogether?

    I want to be clear that I’m not proposing that he go off on a man crusade for religion. What I am saying is that, given his characterization, it would have been perfectly plausible for him to evaluate what happened to him and see a clear light of why he didn’t see the afterlife that fell into his current belief structure as opposed to shattering his beliefs. He’s a fairly hardheaded charter. That seems more inline with his personality to me… to find a reason why and place it into his beliefs… than to walk away from it all.
     
  19. exodus

    exodus Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Because nobody but Vulcans can rationalize death and move on so neatly.

    Healthy?

    Neelix has grow up his whole life consumed by his families death, how was that ever healthy to begin with? You're expecting rational thought from someone that wasn't to begin with.
     
  20. Adm_Hawthorne

    Adm_Hawthorne Admiral Admiral

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    No, what I think I was expecting was for him to stay more true to his moral code/belief structure.

    The over-all rationalization of death is not easy for many people. I get that, believe me.

    To rationalize your own death and (essentially) resurrection and then realize that what you expected to remember wasn't at all what you thought you'd remember must be quite near impossible.

    Thing is, that's what I (note I said I) consider faith to be. Faith is believe in something you can't prove or rationalize well if at all.

    So, here we have a character with a strong personality, strong convictions, who is accustomed to over coming hardship after hardship. Upon realizing that he can't remember an afterlife, he immediately falls into a super depression.

    He's depressed and has a vision quest experience where his subconscious basically tells him life isn't worth living anymore.

    Wait a sec...

    First of all, no one was trying to treat his obvious depression that was quite possibly clinical. Where was the doctor during all of this? Playing golf? It's clear he's having problems adjusting, but no one's thought of keeping an eye on him to make sure he'll be okay? That seems dubious.

    Again, I have to bring up the counseling. Even Data ran a program to talk to Freud, for goodness sake's. No one could pull a counseling program out of whatever thin air they pull all their other holodeck programs from to help him come to some sort of resolution? That also seems dubious to me.

    Neelix decides life is worth living because Naomi needs him. Okay, sure... fine... what happens when she grows up or one of them leaves?