Well, it happened. I don’t know who made that choice in terms of production or writing, but the second episode of the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager marks the end of my favorite character so far: Kes. Maybe someone decided that paying a blonde who wasn’t a sex bomb was a waste of resources (thus returning to Roddenberry’s original idea of… always having a blonde as Captain Kirk’s love interest!), or maybe Jennifer Lien’s fluctuating performances eventually fed up someone (but she wasn’t the only one: Garrett Wang, Robert Duncan McNeill and Kate Mulgrew didn’t really shine in terms of acting until now!)…
The Gift is a handover from an old character to a new one. The passage from Kes to Seven of Nine is thus done in the space of an episode, without major ceremonies. In fact, poor Kes has just the time to say goodbye to Janeway in a moving scene, a last dialogue with Neelix interrupted prematurely by the problems generated by her transformation (the writers have never been able to manage their story), and a last goodbye to Tuvok who uses a quick mental meld to make her arrive at a shuttle without compromising the structural integrity of the entire ship.
That’s all. Not even a final scene with the Doctor, her greatest friend! On the other hand, the good hologram is busy making Seven of Nine human again, with some technobabble involved. This second part is also interesting, with the captain making the strong decision to recover the human who was assimilated by the Borg as a child and give her a chance to return to be part of a community of other human beings. A bit like when she decided to put an end to Tuvix’s life, albeit she did so in order to bring the dear Tuvok and Neelix back to life!
But I’m still thinking about poor Kes… and poor Jennifer Lien! I wonder if her recent mental and judicial problems stem from her unfortunate experience or are independent of it. I think this is the first time that a member of the original cast has been turned away by the producers and show runners, and not because she decided to leave! Denise Crosby decided to leave The Next Generation, Terry Farrell did the same thing in Deep Space Nine, and in Voyager himself the first actress destined to be captain (Geneviève Bujold) left within days of filming the pilot episode.
Kes, Kes… what’s left of her? In the end she had been the protagonist of a handful of episodes, some of which were not bad (and at least one was really bad: Elogium)! Persistence of Vision, Cold Fire, Warlord, and especially Before and After, for example, are all great episodes with Kes at the center of the action, some making use of the her mental powers which were hinted since the first double episode Caretaker.
More generally, I think Kes contributed a lot as a character. While Neelix adds freshness and a touch of color to a crew which is partly rigid Starfleet and partly guerrilla maquis, Kes represented sweetness, she had a certain sensitivity absent in the other characters. Just think of when she rebelled against the crew’s treatment of the Doctor already in Eye of the Needle, or how she helped Janeway deciding about Tuvix, or how she once again defended the Doctor and his right to keep the personality acquired during the journey in The Swarm.
But unfortunately all these moments will be lost like tears in the rain. I’m sure that, as per trekkie tradition, Jennifer Lien will return in some episodes as a special guest, but I believe that the series is losing something unique with the disappearance of her character. Pity.
I’m still ready to accept Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) with open arms, don’t get me wrong! I hope that the change will lead to an improvement in the quality since the third season was quite a disappointment. Apart from a few very good episodes (essentially: Flashback, Before and After and the final part with the Borg), the rest didn’t impress me. But… the gift of the title is a leap of ten thousand light years and Voyager is suddenly out of Borg territory! I was expecting a season full of cubes (like in the menus of the related DVDs)! We’ll see… ciao!
PS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: Jennifer Lien seems to be a bit of a taboo subject, being the only one in the original cast who hasn’t stayed in touch with any of her peers. Here Garrett Wang and Robert Duncan McNeill can’t help but talk about it, and it seems that Kate Mulgrew threw a farewell party in her house for Lien, but McNeill doesn’t remember it and Wang… didn’t even attend it because he forgot all about it! Poor Jennifer…
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