Kes and Neelix were both aliens who joined the Voyager crew after the ship became stranded in the Delta Quadrant. It was clear that they were both envisioned as emissaries of the Delta Quadrant, embodiments of the chaotic unknown that Voyager was to face intermingled with the crew. However, this was another idea that was never brought to its full potential. Just as Kes could’ve been balanced on the tipping point between good and evil due to superpowers she could not control, Neelix could’ve been the fish out of the water, an alien with values completely contrary to those of the Federation, who was nonetheless essential to their survival so far away from The Federation, forcing us to consider that there’s more than one way to be the good guy.
He was a fish out of the water, with values contrary to those of the Federation But rather than this setting up philosophical conflicts that symbolized Voyager’s distance from the familiar certainty of The Federation, it set up comedic conflicts that weren’t that funny. And as the show went on, he became less and less conflicted, to the point where it was just a given that he was onboard with Federation values. It was often easy to forget the premise that The Voyager was stranded on the other side of the galaxy, and Neelix could’ve been the reminder. Instead, he was comic relief.
Except, as I said before, he wasn’t funny at all. And what is a comic relief character when they’re not funny? Really really annoying is what.
Neelix goes one spot above Kes, however, because of the charisma of actor Ethan Philips. Philips played Neelix as if he was playing the greatest character in Trek history. It’s unclear if Philips was oblivious to Neelix’s faults, or was just making lemonade out of lemons, but his zest and enthusiasm in the role was the reason that, despite everything, Neelix was sometimes fun (if not funny) and watchable. Plus, Philips was also able to play Neelix with real pathos when it was called for.