Overall Rating: 6.0
Memory Alpha can fill you in on the oh-so-generic details here.
This episode actually cracks me up on three different occasions - I suspect SFDebris would disagree with me, but everyone has a different sense of humor. For example, what he would call a "stupid Neelix moment" when the nervous Neelix cooks some random food and brings it to the Bridge in the middle of a crisis, I call a cute character moment and a darned funny reaction take from Janeway. And Tuvok, for that matter. "May I ask, Mr. Neelix, when you obtained the role of 'Morale Officer'?" That's funny to me, but what do I know. I like underdogs...SFDebris evidently doesn't. The Doctor's strident, rudeness also cracked me up twice...once when he was whining about not being used only in emergencies to Torres, and again when he was hopping up and down and waving his arms like an idiot on the view screen trying to get his audio turned back on. This is why we love Robert Picardo here at RightFans. :)
But...the rest of the episode serves essentially no purpose and is held together by a "Native American" theme that is not very authentic (and could even be called a little stereotypical - it represents, to me, the worst kind of multiculturalism - the one delivered ignorant of actual historical facts) and a technobabble plot that is neither original, nor significant and thus fails to hold my interest. I don't really care about the weird pseudo-science this week - it doesn't distract from the story for me - but there's no story to lose. This show feels like a series of vignettes hold together by a wishy-washy theme about animal spirits and respect for life. Not that I reject that respect for life...I just don't think they put much effort into making the decision that difficult for Janeway. On net...this one gets a big "meh" from me. I was especially unimpressed with the opening monologue in which Janeway just TELLS us that her crew is getting along swimmingly and is becoming awesome. So...the premise of the show involving the tension between Maquis and Starfleet officers? Over. They all sing Kumbaya now.
But you COULD have done a similar plot and tied together all of the loose threads in a more interesting (and authentic) way, so...
Let's Go With It!
I think this should have been a Neelix story. He's just a scared kid in a man's body - that's how he's being written at least, so that's what I'm going to assume they meant for him. He's got a big heart, but is uber-protective of Kes and unaccustomed to taking big risks just for the fun of it (and given his history in the Talaxian war as a deserter, he certainly isn't much of a hero-figure early on). If the writers weren't obsessed with trying to make everyone secretly a paragon of virtue, even if it's under some rough edges, and if they allowed people to make mistakes and learn from them, you could have expanded Neelix's complaints about the "beast" and had him fight Janeway over the need to go back and fix the creature's injury and maybe come away respecting the creature a little more.
And you CERTAINLY should have complimented this by having Janeway approach her spirit guide experience uber-skeptically and then perhaps wonder at the end if she should take her spirituality more seriously. But all of the Native stuff gets reduced to a brain-scanning digital device and a bit of whimsy, rather than a quest that is actually difficult. I can live with a Trek episode that ends up actually being about respecting all life, great and small, if they actually transmit that message against some dramatic resistance. They didn't do that. So the message is lost.
There are good scenes and really bad ones - the net being a below average script elevated by some decent performances.
As noted, Picardo, Mulgrew and Phillips had their moments here, so, on balance, it's a decent bit of acting.
This one is tooty-fruity and totally lacking in depth. It's harmless, but vapid.