Star Trek Fans Never Saw One Of Voyager's Most 'Beautiful' Scenes

It wouldn't be very controversial to state that "Star Trek: Voyager" sits at an unusual crossroads in franchise history. Essentially functioning as an olive branch to fans who felt threatened by the more challenging and unconventional paths traveled by "Deep Space Nine," "Voyager" brought fans back to the safe confines of a much more familiar environment. An emphasis on exploration, a constantly roving starship with a traditional crew (aside from the very un-Federation-like Maquis half, at least), a noticeable lack of interpersonal conflicts among the crew in the early going, and heavily episodic adventures with little to no carryover from one episode to the next. If it weren't for the unique premise of the show, fans would be forgiven for thinking they'd somehow entered a spatial distortion or subspace rift that transported them back to the halcyon days of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Various growing pains (yes, the unofficial "Wait three seasons for the episodes to get good" rule of thumb remains alive and well here) and reactionary creative decisions aside, "Voyager" would eventually go on to inspire a sizable group of devoted fans and provide several classic moments in "Trek" lore ... and not just the controversial ones that even the most casual of fans will have undoubtedly head about.

One unexpected detail, in fact, continues to resonate with fans (and even cast members) of the series to this day. Of the many memorable characters on board the USS Voyager, lost in the faraway Delta Quadrant with little hope of a timely return to Earth, the Talaxian known as Neelix (Ethan Phillips) and the Ocampan named Kes (Jennifer Lien) quickly became integral (if somewhat divisive) parts of the crew. Romantically involved with one another right from the start, much of the early seasons of "Voyager" mined conflict and soap opera-esque drama from external obstacles such as jealous love triangles, placing one or the other in physical danger, or the built-in reality of Kes' naturally short lifespan encompassing only eight or nine total years. The largest change to the status quo, however, completely changed the tenor of their very relationship. The choice to split up the couple was a momentous enough move on its own, but doing so without even airing their actual break-up scene to give fans a more concrete sense of closure? That's a whole other level of "boldly going."

Anatomy of a breakup

To be completely fair, we do get to see the moment of Kes and Neelix's separation in season 3 of "Voyager," in episode 10 titled "Warlord" — though with very little in the way of actual set-up or much in the way of meaningful fallout. An early scene sees the two reach what seems like only a temporary impasse in their relationship, as Kes complains of the oftentimes clingy Neelix's suffocating needs and intense jealousy over who she chooses to spend her time with. Having never experienced a romantic relationship outside of this one, Kes understandably feels eager to see what else the universe has to offer and suggests a parting of ways ... or so we think. Of course, because this is "Star Trek," these relatively minor concerns are complicated by the fact that Kes has done all this while being possessed by a recently-deceased alien entity with tyrannical, warlord ambitions. Compelled to drive her closest friends away and escape from the ship, she spends the rest of the episode fighting to regain control of her own mental influence while her unwelcome intruder goes on the warpath. You know, run-of-the-mill "Trek" stuff.

Ultimately, however, the episode ends on a somber note as Kes grapples with the fact that her brief but violent rampage can't be undone and that she will, fundamentally, never be able to maintain the exact same relationships with the Voyager crew as she once did.

Episode 21, titled "Before And After," further doubles down on the Neelix/Kes breakup with another Kes-centric storyline. The episode introduces an unexpectedly moving time travel wrinkle (one that "Lost" and many other shows in its wake no doubt borrowed from) that opens a window into a hypothetical future where Kes is married to Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) and has started a family in her waning years. The actual mechanics of Kes starting the episode as an aged woman ("aged" being a relative term for a nine-year-old Ocampan, of course) and repeatedly jumping back to earlier points in this future timeline are unimportant, at least compared to the visceral impact of seeing Kes and Neelix's platonic, if somewhat awkward, new dynamic.

For such an episodic series, these two hours of "Voyager" did much of the heavy-lifting to incorporate such a dramatic shake-up to potentially skeptical viewers ... which brings us back to that unaired breakup scene.

A "beautifully written scene"

No matter the accepted consensus of any given "Star Trek" show, you can be sure that certain creative choices made on the series will continue to invite discussion and debate years down the line. The same applies to the short-lived Kes and Neelix romance. During an episode of "The Delta Flyers" podcast, co-hosted by Garrett Wang (who played ensign Harry Kim) and Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris), actor Ethan Phillips opened up about this very topic.

As it turns out, a crucial scene directly addressing the impact of their separation was actually written and filmed ... but never made it to the air. While talking about a certain scene taking place between Neelix and Kes where their tumultuous history together isn't even acknowledged on any level whatsoever, Phillips points to a previous episode that could've featured an important moment of reckoning between them. Surprisingly, neither of Phillips' co-stars had even heard of this development. Adding that it was a "beautifully written scene," Phillips explains:

"...we did do a scene where we both acknowledge that we're not a couple anymore. We shot it in the science lab, which was a set we didn't use often. And Kes and I had a closure conversation where we said we want to be friends now and blah, blah, blah. And it was, it was quite a nice tag to the relationship. They never aired it ... it was a very good scene. It was easily a six or seven-page scene where we track what happened to us and what we think might have caused the split, but that we want to stay friends..."

The elephant in the room, however, can't fully be avoided. Phillips goes on to admit that the specifics of their relationship were never clarified and that pesky age difference became too glaring to ignore:

"It was a lot of ambiguity about that relationship to begin with. Was it platonic, wasn't romantic. And it was shaky, just the optics You know, I'm an older guy, and here's this very young girl who's ostensibly two years old in her race, and I think they weren't sure how to handle it so much. And so I think they just thought let's just move on, and maybe they'll forget about it."

"Trek" lore is littered with moments like these, but we'll never forget the saga of Kes and Neelix on "Voyager."