When Neelix encounters the USS Voyager in 2371 he’s a junk dealer who’s not beyond considering an occasional illegal job. Though a genial people- person, he uses bravado to cover insecurity.

Neelix welcomes Captain Janeway to the Delta Quadrant, acquaints her with regional politics, and then tricks her into rescuing his girlfriend, Kes, from the Kazon-Ogla.

Though Neelix’s relationship with Janeway starts poorly, it turns around and volunteers to be a guide, morale officer and chef for Voyager. his confidence is buoyed by Kes’ unconditional love and the respect he’s shown on Voyager. His cooking is not always enjoyed. But his efforts do contribute to Voyager’s survival. His Mess Hall becomes a de-facto social gathering spot for the crew. And, late night workers in the Mess Hall can rely on homespun advice, along with hot coffee, from Neelix.

During the same time Kes’ new skills and friendships bring Neelix’s insecurities to the surface. In 2373 Neelix learns how smothering he’s been with Kes after she is taken over by the warlord Tiernan and all her repressed thoughts are voiced. Though Kes regains control of her body and apologizes for Tiernan’s words, they both know some truth has been spoken and agree to be friends.

Just as he’s losing Kes, Neelix believes his value on Voyager is also coming to an end because the ship is advancing into territory beyond his knowledge. To cover his panic, Neelix makes a deal with an old friend for a map and nearly betrays all his friends on Voyager before confessing his crimes. From that point onwards Neelix understands that he isn’t as worthless as he thought. Soon after he even confronts Tuvok, whom he has admired and feared, demanding respect.

By the time Kes leaves Voyager at the beginning of 2374, Neelix is very much a restored man. He becomes the god father to Naomi Wildman, a duty he treasures, and begins talking more about his sister and family that were killed in a war.

Neelix’s heart is seen at its best in 2376 when becomes close to a neurologically impaired Tuvok and nurses him back to health despite knowing that Tuvok’s complete restoration means he will lose the friendship that he worked so hard to develop.

As a Talaxian who survived the mass annihilation of most of his people during the deadly ‘metreon cascade’ Neelix still carries with him feelings of guilt and loss. It is no surprise then that Neelix re-connects with his people in a profound way in 2377, when he eventually leaves Voyager.