**** (4 stars out of 5)
The Doctor's inspired temporary solution is a pair of holographic lungs based on Neelix's transporter pattern. So long as the Talaxian remains utterly still in his isotropic restraint and never leaves it for the rest of his life, the device will keep him alive.
The holographic doctor has a friend at last! A friend who can never, ever leave...
While Voyager pursues the organ harvesters, poor Neelix goes none-to-quietly stir crazy. And he didn't have that far to go. He's insanely jealous of the attention Tom Paris pays to Kes: offering his sympathy right in front of the dying boyfriend in what Neelix believes is a clever ploy to ride the Kes Express. Kes, for her part, is insanely sweet and supportive for a one-year old. Ironically, she's the mature one.
Can't they rig Neelix up a voice-activated book to read? Or even a damn TV? It might have prevented or delayed his awful panic attack inside his iron lung.
The organ thieves (the phage-riddled Vidiians) are hiding in an asteroid rigged like a hall of mirrors. I expected more on the chamber of horrors front- bathtubs of kidneys and the like. But the horrors are smaller and maybe a little worse: the patchwork flesh of two civilized but deathly ill bastards who'll do anything to take another breath.
Horrified, Janeway still can't bring herself to kill a guy to get Neelix's lungs back, but swears she'll kill the next Vidiians who even sidle near her people and remark 'What lovely eyes you have..."
In guilt and gratitude, the Vidiians transplant a lung from volunteer Kes and slink off.
So, to be clear, the Holodoc told us that Neelix's original lungs were too complex to replace with artificial ones. Yet Kes' Ocampa lung IS made compatible by advanced Vidiian medicine. We're told ANY lung in the room would have worked. BUT... doesn't this mean that Neelix's only lung will (like Kes) die of old age in a mere 8 years?
Might not logic dictate that Tuvok's lung (with its Vulcan longevity) would better serve? And could not Tuvok then get one of the artificial ones more easily? Whelp, too late now!
"Phage" is another medical drama on the heels of 'Life Support' but I found the stakes higher and I felt awful for Neelix and The Doctor both. (And this time, for Kes, too.) And even the Vidiians! It's quite a feat to make organ-theiving monsters believable and relatable. In my opinion, they're the best Delta Quadrant villains of Season One, because they're hideous, and it's easy to sympathize with their desperation. I want to believe I wouldn't kill others to save myself, but I really hope I never find out.