In the Star Trek: Voyager episode Phage, a Vidiian steals Neelix's lungs to replace his own which have been affected by disease.

Janeway is not willing to simply take back the lungs by force as she doesn't feel right killing one creature to save another.

By the end of the episode, it's determined that while none of the crew have lungs that are compatible with Neelix, the Vidiians have advanced medical technology which will allow one of them to be transplanted anyway.

Now comes the moment of having to choose a donor, someone to give up a lung so that Neelix can live, and Kes heroically steps up.

Why did they not just take a lung back from the one who stole them in the first place? He even seemed genuinely concerned for Neelix and so would not have objected himself, it would have presumably been the best possible match (being Neelix's own lung), it would have gotten Janeway out of her strange moral quandary and it wouldn't have discommoded one of her crew!

  • I thought my answer to this one was pretty solid, given the direct quote from the episode that addresses your question. Is there anything else you'd like me to cover before considering an acceptance?
    – Valorum
    Sep 22, 2017 at 12:00
  • @Valorum - There's one small thing which may be a misunderstanding on my part, but I've commented under your answer.
    – komodosp
    Sep 22, 2017 at 12:16

3 Answers 3


This was addressed in the show. In addition to Neelix's lungs being grafted into the Vidiian's body, they'd also been altered in such a way as to make their return impossible, presumably by removing certain factors that would result in their rejection.

JANEWAY: I have a great sympathy for what your race has endured, but I cannot allow you to keep the organs you removed from one of our crew members. We need them back immediately.

DERETH: I'm afraid that isn't possible. I have already bio-chemically altered the air-breathing organs and grafted them into Motura's body. They are a part of him now.

Voy: Phage

  • 3
    Still leaves open the question why they couldn't "bio-chemically alter" the lungs to again be compatible with Neelix... but this is definitely the canon explanation. +1. May 22, 2017 at 20:22
  • 1
    @ApproachingDarknessFish- Even with all the Federation's science, I doubt if they can unscramble an omelette
    – Valorum
    May 22, 2017 at 20:41
  • 5
    @Valorum On the other hand there was Tuvix. May 22, 2017 at 21:15
  • 1
    @Valorum No, the Vidiians might. May 22, 2017 at 23:49
  • 1
    @Colmde - My impression is that she's seriously considering giving it a try anyway
    – Valorum
    Sep 22, 2017 at 12:29

The simple answer is the lungs were now infected with the Phage (it was a plot point that they couldn't cure it, or they'd just remove their own organs, disinfect them, and put them back). Even if they could have been removed and grafted back, you wouldn't want unhealthy tissue returned to your body.

Relevant dialogue from the episode

DERETH: We are gathering replacement organs and suitable bio-matter. It is the only way we have to fight the phage.
JANEWAY: A virus? Some kind of disease?
MOTURA: Yes, it attacked our people over two millennia ago. It consumes our bodies, destroys our genetic codes and cellular structures.
JANEWAY: So you harvest the bodies of other beings to replace your own tissues as they're consumed by this phage?
MOTURA: Our immuno-technology cannot keep up. The phage adapts. It resists all attempts to destroy it. Our society has been ravaged. Thousands die each day. There is no other way for us to survive.

  • Can you provide a source for that? I vaguely remember the episode, and, although the argument about the infected organs sounds good, I do not recall it. I have always thought that the main reason was the Starfleet's moral superiority. May 22, 2017 at 12:35
  • @EdmundDantes Added the dialogue. Honestly, I found it odd they never cited it as a reason not to put them back. Janeway seems gravitate towards the "take them back" line as a negotiation tool.
    – Machavity
    May 22, 2017 at 12:48
  • Indeed that's what I thought, but the reason Janeway gives for not simply taking them back is that she's not willing to take one life to save another. And if that were the reason, it would be uncharacteristic of Star Trek not to at least mention it.
    – komodosp
    May 22, 2017 at 14:34

Motura needed both lungs.

Memory Alpha says the Vidiians were

forcibly removing organs from live subjects as necessary

The part that strikes me is "as necessary." This implies that they only took what they had to as opposed to keeping organs on hand or transplanting organs they didn't need.

In this case, they took Neelix's lungs. Presumably, a phage-free heart would be useful but they left his heart intact.

In addition, some members of Vidiian society seemed unwilling to harvest organs. Motura himself was willing to die if it could save Neelix's life and Danara Pel seemed to be against the practice. Later, the Think Tank said Janeway wouldn't recognize the Vidiians without the phage even though Janeway had seen a healthy Vidiian in holgraphic form (Pel). That implies, their entire culture shifted away from harvesting when it was no longer needed.

So, the simplest answer is that Motura needed both lungs to survive. The Voyager crew was unwilling to risk or sacrifice him to save Neelix.

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