July 21, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Weekend Trek “The Gift”

Seven of Nine resists losing the Collective while Kes gets ready to depart.

Kes departs just as Seven starts to get comfortable.  That tracks.

Honestly, these two characters don’t have much in common as it is.

I’m struck by something here in this second episode of the season, with Seven finally achieving her standard look for the rest of the series and Kes basically going away (she has, I believe, one more episode in the future as a guest star).  The last scene with Seven in this episode is clearly there to show off how good Jeri Ryan looks in that skintight silver bodysuit.  It just looks like a character introduction, and it’s not that surprising since Ryan does seem to have a lot of eye-candy appeal.  Arguably, Kes had that too, particularly in her last few episodes as her hair seemed to be done up in a way to hide her Ocompa ears.  I don’t rightfully know why Jennifer Lien left the show.  Her Wikipedia entry says something about a contract dispute.  I know I was surprised when looking up something about a previous Kes-focused episode to see a site refer to her as a “fan favorite,” and aside from her appearance, I am not sure why that is.

To be clear, I don’t think Kes is a bad character so much as an underdeveloped one, and there are far worse characters in terms of development on this show such as poor Harry Kim.  I just don’t know why (aside from the obvious) that Kes was a fan favorite.

But that’s neither here nor there.  Besides, there’s one obvious difference I picked up on even when these episodes were new that made Jeri Ryan different from any number of attractive women that may have been added to the show simply because they looked good:  Jeri Ryan can actually act.

OK, that isn’t fair at all.  I’m thinking here of characters like Troi or Jadzia Dax, characters that appeared to be little more than a pretty face when they first appeared on their respective shows and didn’t seem to be asked to do much more than look pretty.  In the case of Troi, that comes down more on the writing for the series than anything else.  I am not kidding when I say that I didn’t think Troi ever came across as particularly useful until Star Trek Picard, and Marina Sirtis has proven to me to be a pretty charming person.  As for Dax, she got better over time, and Terry Farrell was likewise more than just a pretty face.

The difference here is Seven is actually asked to do some heavy scenes from Day One.  Or Day Two as the case may be.  Seven is a unique character in many ways.  Assimilated as a child, the Collective is basically all she knows after something like 20 years.  She’s not unemotional like a Vulcan or aspiring to have them like Data.  She’s disinterested in feeling things, and the loss of the other voices in her head is more disquieting than anything else.  There have been unassimilated drones before–Jean-Luc Picard is the famous one–but these were people who weren’t assimilated very long or take to being outside of the Collective more easily than Seven does.  Seven starts off being cold and condescending.  She even coldcocks Harry at one point, and who does that?  Besides, for all that Ryan may have been added to the cast due to her general appearance, she spends most of the episode still in partial drone make-up with one eye missing.  That’s hardly the sexiest look possible.  Yeah, the blonde coif and the bodysuit are there by episode’s end, but that’s after a lot of time is spent making her as unpleasant as possible to everyone around her.

As for Kes, her removal from the show isn’t explained all that well because no one really understands in-universe what’s happening.  The basic idea seems to be that her exposure to Species 8472 expanded her mental powers so much that she eventually lost her corporeal form, and it was a good thing she was off the ship when it happened.  She does do one last thing for Voyager by propelling the damaged starship ten lightyears away, effectively getting the ship out of Borg space while also shaving ten years off their return journey.  But she doesn’t seem to die so much as evolve to something else.  And for all the episode tries to emphasize how much the crew will miss Kes, I find it interesting who is seen last privately lighting a candle to her memory:  Tuvok.  Yes, he was her mentor in her growing telepathic powers, but it isn’t Neelix, her one lover, or Tom Paris, a wannabe lover.  It’s not the Doctor, another teacher for Kes, noteworthy for the fact that Kes was the first person to see the Doctor as a person.  And even if Janeway is there to say goodbye, she’s more concerned about getting Seven to behave herself even as Seven is pointing out potential Starfleet hypocrisy.

So, was this a good departure episode for Kes?  It’s not the worst.  Was it a good re-introduction to Seven of Nine?  It’s better than I thought it would be when I heard the character was coming back in 1997, and it remains a pretty good introduction now.

Hopefully the remaining seasons won’t make this feel to me like it’s the Seven of Nine show.