The Star Trek: Voyager producers had a purpose for the energetic Neelix and the logical Tuvok
No one could annoy Tuvok quite like Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager. Neelix was constantly encouraging the Vulcan to smile while Tuvok just wanted the morale officer to go away. The interactions between the two were just what the producers were hoping for. In the Original Series, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy played off one another with sarcasm and logic, their interactions legendary. And as much as they seemed to annoy one another, they were close friends.
The producers of Voyager wanted to capture that same dynamic with the overly-cheerful Talaxian and the controlled Vulcan. According to Tim Russ who portrayed Tuvok, in an interview he gave for the book Star Trek: Voyager A Celebration, once he realized what the producers were trying to do, he made an effort to make sure his performance was in direct contrast to Ethan Phillips, who portrayed Neelix. Russ admitted that he intended from day one to “ramp up Tuvok’s potential to be annoyed.”
Though Dr. McCoy was nothing like Neelix, both he and the Talaxian did have their own unique ways of getting under the skins of their Vulcan shipmates. Dr. McCoy generally chose sarcasm and wisecracks while Neelix remained ebullient and persistent, hoping to one day crack Tuvok’s outer shell. Neelix didn’t have the need for sarcasm; his presence was all it took to annoy Tuvok as the Vulcan was, essentially, a challenge.
While Spock rarely allowed the doctor to see his level of annoyance, Tuvok was usually unable to hide his when confronted by Neelix. And though it made for a different type of Spock/McCoy relationship, Tuvok and Neelix did create their own dynamic that ran through the entire seven seasons.
It wasn’t until the very end of the series, right before Neelix left Voyager for the final time, that Tuvok ever so slightly revealed that he did have some affection for the man who’d tortured him for so many years. Though the producers wanted to create their own version of Spock and McCoy, instead, with the talents of Tim Russ and Ethan Phillips, they created a pairing that worked perfectly for Star Trek: Voyager.