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The Day Neelix Died: "Mortal Coil" at 20

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It was 20 years ago today that Star Trek: Voyager fans first felt the emotional gut punch of “Mortal Coil.” A powerful, thought-provoking, beautifully acted episode, it showcased Ethan Phillips as Neelix. The Talaxian, up until then, often served to deliver lighter moments or to bolster the characters around him. But in “Mortal Coil,” episode 12 of season four, Neelix died, only to be brought back to life via Seven of Nine's Borg nanoprobes. However, his resurrection wasn't without complications, as he struggled physically, spiritually and emotionally in the days after.

To memorialize the occasion of its 20th anniversary, StarTrek.com presents some facts, figures and anecdotes about "Mortal Coil," as well as fresh comments from Ethan Phillips himself:

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Long Live... Chakotay?

Earlier on as “Mortal Coil” came to life, Chakotay was tapped to be the character who died.

Shuffling Off

“Mortal Coil” is derived from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It specifically comes from the following: "For in that sleep of death what dreams may come/When we have shuffled off this mortal coil/Must give us pause..."

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Ethan Phillips Remembers

“I knew it was an important script for Neelix,” Phillips told StarTrek.com earlier this week. “Mr. Neelix wanted to die because he saw no reason for going on now that his hope for an after-life reunion with his family had been destroyed, but Chakotay beautifully and generously made it clear that the ship and its crew needed him, for his special gifts and kindness. What ‘Mortal Coil’ provided for character development was this: He mattered to the crew. He was an asset. And that that alone is enough to stay alive for. The idea, I think, is very existential. We define ourselves and give ourselves essence through action, the next right action. Being of service is the soul of hope.”

Her Name Is… Naomi

We finally heard Wildman's first name... Naomi. Speaking of Wildman, Brooke Stephens made her acting debut in the role, though she was later replaced by Scarlett Pomers.

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The “Phage” Connection

Reference is made to Neelix's "lung," which links this story to "Phage," in which the Vidiians stole Neelix's lungs, with Kes then donating one of hers to him. 

Six Degrees of Fresh Prince

Actress Robin Stapler, who portrayed Neelix's sister Alixia, later married (and subsequently divorced) Alfonso Ribiero, co-star of the sitcoms The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Silver Spoons.

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One of 39

"Mortal Coil" is one of 39 total episodes of Star Trek -- including the DS9, Voyager and Enterprise series finales -- directed by Allan Kroeker. He's still an in-demand helmer, having directed episodes of Battlestar Galactica, Pushing Daisies (from "Mortal Coil" writer Bryan Fuller), Bones, Chuck, Covert Affairs, Grimm, Defiance, Salem, Motive and Greenleaf.

Ethan Phillips, Violin Player

Phillips, during our recent interview, recounted a moment with Kroeker that stands out even two decades later. “Allan said to me, after the fourth or fifth closeup, 'You played that like a violin. Let’s move on.’ Everyone loves a pat on the back.”

Ethan Phillips in Junk

Ethan Phillips is as busy as ever. He moved back to New York City several years ago in order to dedicate himself to stage work. He appeared in the acclaimed All the Way a couple of seasons ago and is currently co-starring in the Broadway production of the drama, Junk, at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Go to www.lct.org for tickets. The show will run for another several weeks, though Phillips will depart a few days early in order to sail on Star Trek: The Cruise II

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