Star Trek: Voyager: Favorite Son   Rewatch 
August 3, 2017 6:43 AM - Season 3, Episode 20 - Subscribe

Is Harry Kim truly the Alien Boy who Lived, the Extraterrestrial Prince that was Promised? But how could it be? If only there were something that would cause him to push back more against this preposterous premise, something that would tie him closer to Voyager, like, say, I dunno, just one lousy promotion...

It ain't me, it ain't me; Memory Alpha ain't no fortunate one, no:

- While undergoing a typical episode rewrite process, this installment of Star Trek: Voyager was severely altered. Director Marvin V. Rush – who usually served as a Director of Photography on the live-action Star Trek spin-off series – noted, "It went through some rewrites." The initial storyline, from which Lisa Klink wrote a script, was organized in such a way that the entire episode was going to be about how Kim truly was an alien. Kim actor Garrett Wang commented, "They were going to keep it that way. They were talking about keeping me in alien spots for the rest of the series." Recalling how the script thereafter evolved, Wang stated, "They changed it so that Kim ended up trying to get away from these life-force sucking women. Everything got flipped around." He further explained, "Some big-wigs looked at it and said, 'More sex, more action,' and suddenly, it became convoluted. The arc wasn't clear. They added in the vampire-like, blood-sucking women. But they didn't go all the way with it."

- Garrett Wang described the earliest version of this episode's script as "excellent". In the early stages of the episode's development, he eagerly anticipated the chance to play Kim as an alien throughout the rest of the series. "It would have given me a chance to add a little more color to him," Wang related. "I was very excited about that, because I had always said that it was easier to write for the non-human characters on Voyager than the Human characters."

- Lisa Klink noted that, ultimately, the installment leads Harry Kim to revalue his lifestyle: "This is an episode that forces Kim to question his identity a little bit. He gets to take a walk on the wild side, and then of course discovers that he is who he thought he was all along. Maybe it's not so bad to be Harry Kim."

"Harry. What happened to your face?"
"We're still trying to figure that out."
"It's kind of cute. Makes you look like a speckled targ!"

- Torres comments on Kim's new spots

"Sometimes I wish I could be more bold, more confident with women, more like you."
"Like me? You might want to reconsider that, Harry. There may be prison time involved."

- Harry Kim and Tom Paris

Poster's Log:

So, is the third installment in the so-called "trilogy of terror" that terrible? Well, no... but it ain't great. There's some meat here, even with the preposterous premise, which had already been used in DS9's "Second Skin" with Kira (to great effect, since she'd been hoaxed into believing that she was a Cardassian, the people that she'd spent much of her life fighting), and originally intended for O'Brien, Kim's close equivalent as the everyman who gets stuck in these existentially disturbing situations. It is plausible that Kim would be attracted, not just by the prospect of polygamy (more on that in a bit), but by the idea that he had some important intrinsic destiny, a la King Arthur, Harry Potter, Jon Snow, &c., &c. Even though his fears of innate mediocrity seem a bit weak after the events of "Non Sequitur", in which we find out that he would have been one of the project leaders in an important experimental runabout program if he'd stayed on Earth rather than being assigned to Voyager, there's still that old fantasy that is so attractive, particularly to those of us who are into science fiction and fantasy. (Ahem.) And, with the show having actually quite a few races which acquire new members (or parts thereof) from other races--the Borg, the Vidiians, that race in the upcoming episode that converts corpses of other races, even the devolved salamanders that Janeway and Paris turned into--the Taresians don't seem that impossible, at least for the Delta Quadrant. There's also yet another good Tom/Harry moment at the end.

The deal-killer for this episode, IMO, is the whole premise of the seductive and predatory race of women who turn out to be black widows/praying mantises. It's an old SF cliche/trope that's been parodied time and again, and it's the sort of thing that jars pretty badly on a show that has a female captain and chief engineer, even if you're into homages/parodies of corny old SF. (Paris' Captain Proton holodeck adventures works a bit better, if only because they occasionally include people who either don't get into it at all (Seven) or totally own it (Janeway).) At least the show eventually remembers that Harry doesn't leave his station willingly, because he's Harry, but we still have to sit through a lackluster chase and fight scene before it's over. And it left me with a bad taste in my mouth as to how sleazy the come-on was (three women at once! three, dude!), not to mention the heteronormativity of Harry stating that marriages were usually between one man and one woman (DOMA, anyone?). As the kids say nowadays, could we not. To add fuel to the fire, their leader looks a lot like Bibi Besch, who played Carol Marcus (the original; the less said about the version of the character from STID, the better), the woman who is kind of the opposite of the predator queen shown here. (It turns out that the actress, Deborah May, had played a very different character in Trek previously.)

On the plus side, there was yet another hard SF idea with the concept of the strategic use of retroviruses to retroactively genetically engineer other races, although I have to wonder if they really need to raid the cell nuclei of alien men if they have that sort of genetic engineering technology. The game series Mass Effect has an all-female species, the asari, who mate with other species via a sort of mind-meld procedure called "embracing eternity" that is sometimes but not always accompanied by the usual sort of physical bumping of uglies, but the procedure doesn't physically remove DNA from the mate (which can be of any gender) or kill them... except in the case of the Ardat-Yakshi, but if you were that interested you'd have already played the games, why don't you, they're great.

Poster's Log, supplemental: I literally LOLed when I recognized Patrick Fabian, who played the unfortunate dude; he's also Howard Hamlin in Better Call Saul. We've already seen Michael McKean on VOY as the creepy clown in "The Thaw", and Jonathan Banks was in DS9.
posted by Halloween Jack (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yeah, I fuckin' love Captain Proton. I don't love this.

My fellow fans of Terminator 3 (all 2 of them) will recognize the tall blonde Amazon Moon Mantis-Woman as Kristanna Lokken, the machine-controlling "Terminatrix."

I can't say it surprised me to learn, though I did not anticipate, that part of the problem with this episode was network interference. Ah, UPN: so determined to cook and eat your golden goose.

Ya know—not that I want to derail the thread immediately—but at this point, the only thing CBS All Access could do to reassure me that they're going to be completely hands-off w/r/t creative control of their offerings would be to announce a project with Werner Freakin' Herzog. Or a resurrected (and therefore even more IDGAF) Stanley Kubrick.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:12 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


My fellow fans of Terminator 3 (all 2 of them)

Hey, there are three of us!

Remember that Star Trek Timelines game I talked about a few weeks ago? It's out of beta and now on Steam.
posted by Servo5678 at 7:28 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


Something I forgot to add to the PL: in the epilogue, Harry cites the legends of the Sirens as an analogy to his situation. The Animated Series, which may or may not be canon depending on your feelings regarding a show that retconned a lot of Larry Niven's Known Space lore into Trek continuity and also featured a giant Spock clone, had "The Lorelei Signal", in which the alien females lured all the male crewmembers down to their planet for their life-force consumption, only, in that episode, Uhura assembled an all-female commando unit of badass redshirts (plus Chapel) to save the day. IIRC, the casualty figure for the usually doomed redshirts was... hmm... zero. Would have been fun to see a similar rescue team of Kathryn "Loved my Ripley moment, let's have another" Janeway, B'Elanna "Broke a dude's arm right after I joined the crew to make a point" Torres, and "I can kill you with my mind" Kes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:16 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


Particle of the Week: The Taresian retrovirus is a clear example.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: No major races in the franchise use tetryon weapons, but they're one of the main weapon types available in STO. They are especially good at taking down shields. Further, they're particularly good at exploiting Voyager's main tactical weakness: that Intrepid class starships are terrible in a fight, and should always stick to diplomacy.

Ongoing Counts: Rolled forward again.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 22.
* Shuttles: Down 4.
* Crew: 142.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 8.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful.

Notes:
* There were more familiar faces than noted above.

I was very distracted by Patrick Fabian's large role in this, and planned to come here and make some kind of Hamlindigo joke when I caught this last night. In addition to the other people that got name checked, Patricia Tallman (Lyta Alexander of Babylon 5) mixes it up with Harry in the final fight scene. When I was checking myself on that, it turns out she was also in Basics Pt 1, and I missed her.

* More weird shit happens to Harry.

As I have noted in the past, this feels subjective enough that I don't want to slap a counter on my episode review header for it, but this could only happen to Harry on Voyager. Like Jack said, he's their hapless everyman in the way that O'Brien is on DS9. The one thing I'll say about this is that I think Garret Wang is good at it, and he's the right choice for these sorts of weird things on Voyager. I disagree with Wang about Harry becoming an alien full time over this: I think he would've lost that special lack of specialness that made it so fun to drop him into this stuff. (I do sympathize with his desire for more interesting stuff to do though. Playing a character whose hat is 'boring normal guy' must not be exciting most of the time.)

Also, I did enjoy the exchange between him and Paris at the end, especially the line about prison time.

* This is a bad story on multiple levels.

So, we've finally come to the last one in the 'trilogy of terror.' I think hyping it up that way was uncalled for - this is no Threshold - but as noted in Jack's post, it is a legitimately bad story.

The first part of that has already been cited: the whole 'vampire women from the Moon' thing has been done, and it's a weird and misogynistic choice on a show like Voyager. I also noted the 'one man, one woman' marriage thing, and was very disappointed. I feel like I don't need to go on and on about that here at Fanfare because Jack's got it covered pretty well, and if there's one thing I expect most people to be on board with in our community, it's the whole critique of gender and heteronormativity that this episode calls for. So I'll leave that there.

That brings me to the magic retrovirus: as noted by Jack, luring men to their doom doesn't make much sense given their genetic engineering skill and obvious tech base. There's simply no way they couldn't find a nonlethal version of the process or just skip men entirely. The only reason to do something like this is because they liked it. (Maybe it could've been recast as a reality TV show the female population was watching?)

Past that, this is another case of 'science fiction writers have no sense of scale.' This was a thing on Rise, too - the 'biggest colony' that the aliens there had was all of 5000 people. I live in a small town, but there are more people living here than probably that entire planet.

Taresia makes even less sense. They're a technologically advanced civilization on their home planet, and they're super concerned about like one man - enough to put up a planetary energy shield to avoid giving him up (instead of maybe, I dunno, putting him in a scan-shielded facility and telling Voyager that he had a terrible accident with a sex swing or something to get them to buzz off). Their population should be enormous, enough that one man wouldn't make a huge difference either way. I will also note that there's a strong correlation between population size and technological development, and Taresia is highly advanced so there should be scads of people there.

And then there's the virus: how long have the Nasari been at war with Taresia, and used that specific kind of tetryon weapon? What if Taresia had since made peace with them, or they'd switched to disruptors or something? Putting genetic memory into a retrovirus is great and all, but knowledge that specific should have an expiration date. Furthermore, if it could control Harry well enough to make him engage in an act of war, I don't see why it couldn't just make him agree to a polygamous vampire marriage. Plenty of people have a fetish for that in real life.

Finally, the dream stuff felt a little forced this time. I see what they were going for, and a similar directorial choice did work in Unity, but it fell flat for me here. I'll have to think about how to describe why, but it just didn't click for me. (The implication that Harry views Janeway as a surrogate mother did make me laugh, but apart from that, meh.)

So yeah. Favorite Son is about as bad as I remember. Trek was often pretty bad about gender, and it's uniformly terrible about genetics, and this episode hinges on both weaknesses, so it would've taken a miracle to get a good story here. Plus, there was the whole network interference thing - I agree with Cheeses that hearing they're keeping their hands off of something would pique my interest more than almost any other buzz they could put out about their newest show.
posted by mordax at 8:47 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Oh, further thought about McKean and Fabian, added here to avoid abusing edit:

Last night, I got to wondering how Voyager might have turned out with Bob Odenkirk as Neelix, instead of Ethan Phillips. Think about it!
posted by mordax at 8:49 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


This was a terrible, no good, very bad episode. All copies of it should be destroyed with fire.

It was dumb.

No, it wasn't just dumb. It actively conspired to make the viewing audience dumber. With stupid faux "science" that made no sense and fanservice. A chimpanzee and two trainees could pilot a Galaxy class starship through the damned plot holes in this episode with room to spare.

First of all, WHEN YOU TAKE THE TIME TO MAKE WITH THE SCIENCE AT LEAST TRY TO MAKE IT MAKE SENSE.

You can't completely rewrite someone's DNA to make them another species. What's worse, the writers have now based at least TWO episodes around this idiocy. ("Threshold.")

According to the Taresians, Harry was conceived on Taresia, but his embryo was then taken to Earth and secretly implanted in his mom. What? 70,000 light years away? This is a story that will fall apart the second Janeway asks how they got to Earth so fast, and OH HEY can we hitch a ride home please?

No one brings this up.

You can't give someone a genetic homing beacon. Why would they even have doc and the crew accept this idea at face value? Harry is not a salmon. He's not going to magically show up in a random region of space (and let's face it, Voyager has not been flying in a straight line or anything,) and suddenly feel the urge to go home and spawn. This makes no sense.

You can't give someone a gene-based hatred. Which allows you to recognize not just your enemies the Nizari but also their ship design. Which OF COURSE haven't changed in 20+ years, plus travel time for said embryo to get to the Alpha Quadrant. This makes no sense.

Why would they need to enucleate so many of Harry's cells to ensure conception? Enucleating a cell means removing its nucleus, which contains its DNA. Great so you need a lot of nucleii. No problem. There are a hundred trillion cells in the human body. All of them, with the exception of red blood cells, contain nucleii with a person's genetic code. How many copies of Harry's DNA do they need to make a new Taresian? Trillions? Really? No one realizes that you can culture cells in a growth solution, so you don't have to kill their source? This makes no sense.

How exactly does Ensign Harry Kim reroute tactical control to his station without a command code? While the tactical officer is right there?

Does anyone here who isn't Garret Wang think Harry was going to turn out to be an alien? On a show that can't keep track of the number of shuttlecraft it has destroyed? Or photon torpedoes it has fired?

Perhaps worse of all is the plot. The plot is Space Mermaids. Pretty Sirens lure men to their doom. Which is misogynistic on its face, and then does not get better as the story goes on. Didn't we leave pulp scifi behind in the 50's and 60's?

I didn't like this episode at all. One of the series' worst outings.
posted by zarq at 2:07 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


How exactly does Ensign Harry Kim reroute tactical control to his station without a command code? While the tactical officer is right there?

Nah, this is the only detail that rang true to me. I'm pretty sure that if *I* were dumped on a Federation starship, I could take it over and commit acts of war for the duration of one episode. Maybe a two-parter if I had a chance to bone up on Memory Alpha first.

As for the rest... heh. Yeah. What you said.

Additionally, now that you're making me think directly about how stupid this is some more:

Isn't this a crazily haphazard way to get mates? If they're traveling out into the stars in the first place to spread their dumb retrovirus, shouldn't they just hijack men directly instead of giving them Homing Beacon Flu? Their ships were more powerful than the Nasari ones, which were in turn more powerful than Voyager, which is pretty cutting edge technology in most of the galaxy. They *should* be kidnapping dudes with impunity.

You're right, the more I think about this, the dumber I feel.
posted by mordax at 2:24 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


The next three episodes in the series are: "Before and After", "Real Life" and "Distant Origin."

"Before and After" and "Distant Origin" are quite good. "Real Life" is a thoughtful, Doctor-centric episode.

Maybe I'll watch them all in a row to get this one out of my mind. :)

------

Nah, this is the only detail that rang true to me. I'm pretty sure that if *I* were dumped on a Federation starship, I could take it over and commit acts of war for the duration of one episode. Maybe a two-parter if I had a chance to bone up on Memory Alpha first.

I literally snort-laughed during a conference call thanks to you. Thanks. :)
posted by zarq at 2:33 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


You're right, the more I think about this, the dumber I feel.

What really kills me about this episode is that it was written by Lisa Klinck. Who was actually a good Voyager writer. Braga *spits* wrote "Threshold".
posted by zarq at 2:37 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


I literally snort-laughed during a conference call thanks to you. Thanks. :)

Truly, my villainy knows no bounds! :)

Oh, and crud, another thing:

According to the Taresians, Harry was conceived on Taresia, but his embryo was then taken to Earth and secretly implanted in his mom. What? 70,000 light years away? This is a story that will fall apart the second Janeway asks how they got to Earth so fast, and OH HEY can we hitch a ride home please?

Also that's super, super creepy and nobody addresses it. Like, 'nobody gave you permission to impregnate Harry Kim's mom.' I'd be skeeved out if someone suggested that had happened to me, and it's weird to see it glossed over the way they did.

What really kills me about this episode is that it was written by Lisa Klinck.

Yeah. That did surprise me, especially since I'm not at all sure the original transcript was much better. (I really wish those were floating around - I still want to read the original Darkling too.)
posted by mordax at 2:59 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Like, 'nobody gave you permission to impregnate Harry Kim's mom.'

See also: Sarah Sisko.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:19 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Fair point, also gross. (That plotline was a bad idea on so very many levels.)
posted by mordax at 8:29 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


This is an interesting companion episode to Darkling. Both episodes are ultimately unsuccessful, but each with some moments of promise that got lost along the way. In Darkling, Kes is attracted to a traveler, a space-faring adventurer type who, basically, knows no place as home, and finds some like desire to set out without a destination in mind. Here, Harry is drawn to a "home" a planet of his male desire for "specialness" where he'd get all he wanted without having to do a thing or ever leave. That the Taresian retrovirus is found on the Mikhal outpost planet is a nice touch, suggesting the two races are linked, even as they are opposed to the others values in their manner of existence. It's a nifty idea, in theory anyway, tied to a long history of stories placing those values in opposition to each other.

This episode works well up to meeting the Taresians, with Harry's sense of "deja vu" and actions from instinct providing a intriguing build up to the central dilemma. Once they reach the planet, the implausibility of Janeway and crew accepting the story of the Taresians is more than a bit silly, but not so far out of line for the series to be deadly on its own accord. It's really only when Harry "fights back" that the story loses its way, with the threat becoming all too physical rather than metaphor. It makes the women more villainous than makes sense for the focus on Harry's mixed desires, removing the underlying tension in much the same way Darkling screwed up by making Kes a secondary figure in her own story. In this, both episodes err on the side of typical masculine thrills which erases too much of the more complex emotions suggested in the build up to the climax. Neither are helped by their lack of plausibility in plot regards either.

The good stuff in this episode is in how well, aside from the expositional foolishness, the Voyager crew is handled, with Torres, Paris and Janeway each having some fine scenes, the doctor, Kes, Neelix Chakotay and Tuvok even get a good moment or two, and Wang does a nice job with Harry's conflict both on Voyager before knowing its basis and on the planet, silly fight aside. He even looked good in one of the Trek alien tunicforms that are the gold standard for all alien fashionplates in the galaxy evidently.

The Taresians don't come off as well, unfortunately, but unsurprisingly given how silly and predictable their luring methods are. Some more thought over who they are and in finding a better resolution for Harry's escape would have been a necessity for the episode to work, but, sadly, they didn't even appear to recognize the problem. I suppose this could be due to rewriting an already existent script without adequate time to fix everything, but that still doesn't excuse some of the completely obvious failures. I'm glad they didn't make Harry an alien, but I'd like to know more about what they were planning or at least see the original script to be able to get a better feel for what the first intent was here since there is, I think, some solid sidework in what remains, even if this episode, like Darkling, misses the mark by a quite a bit in the end.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:13 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


This episode works well up to meeting the Taresians, with Harry's sense of "deja vu" and actions from instinct providing a intriguing build up to the central dilemma.

You reminded me of something else that bugged me about this episode, actually: all those opening things with Harry behaving weirdly struck me as a little too similar to TNG: "Identity Crisis", a far better episode, and among TNG's creepiest.

It makes the women more villainous than makes sense for the focus on Harry's mixed desires, removing the underlying tension in much the same way Darkling screwed up by making Kes a secondary figure in her own story. In this, both episodes err on the side of typical masculine thrills which erases too much of the more complex emotions suggested in the build up to the climax.

Yeah, and doubtlessly in response to network demands. Gotta nab that males-18-34 demo.

I'm glad they didn't make Harry an alien, but I'd like to know more about what they were planning or at least see the original script to be able to get a better feel for what the first intent was here

I see what you mean about this concept possibly having had potential, but on the other hand, it was always gonna be another Trek episode with the hook of "Is this crewmember permanently leaving to go live on this planet we just heard of for the first time? Consult Betteridge's Law", which would've been unlikely to amount to more than a B-grade episode. Still higher than the D-grade we get here, of course.

And yeah, making Harry a Taresian would've been incalculably stupid. That's not really a well that the writers (ANY writers, let alone these) would've been able to go back to—not without developing the Taresians waaaaay more than they obviously intended to, and, well, making them interesting. The two similar examples of Big Mid-Series Character Reveals that I can think of from Trek are both DS9: Odo is a Founder and Bashir is genetically enhanced. (Interestingly, the latter reveal came in an episode that aired less than a month prior to "Favorite Son"! Hmmmm!) Both of these reveals work because they turn what we know about a character on its head to some extent, and even more critically, because we understand what it means for them to be these things. And as a result of those factors, the reveals provide multiple possible hooks for later episodes to exploit (although Siddig said something at one point about how he felt the reveal hurt his character in a way, and I do see what he meant; nevertheless, I felt the series made effective use of it, like in "Statistical Probabilities" and "Extreme Measures"). Here, however, had they decided "Guess what, viewers! Harry was a Rando Delta Alien all along!", we would've been like, "Oh." Plus, whatever they might have been able to do with that (w/r/t the Delta-Alien-But-Also-Human character development angle) was probably done better by adding Seven.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:10 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


betteridgeslaw tag added, and may be useful in any number of episodes which propose a permanent change in the status quo that wouldn't improve it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:35 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


The two similar examples of Big Mid-Series Character Reveals that I can think of from Trek are both DS9

You're forgetting the one where Data met his evil twin brother, thus revealing that he was originally from a bad daytime soap opera. No one knew because, of course, Omicron Theta was wiped out, providing him with both a tragic backstory and amnesia and I'm suddenly uncomfortable with how well my joke actually explains all that so I'm going to move on now.

On a (slightly) more serious note:
although Siddig said something at one point about how he felt the reveal hurt his character in a way

I always agreed with that. Super Bashir is a case of this kind of plotline done better, but it still changed the way I viewed earlier episodes where Bashir clearly could have saved the day with his powers and canonically chose not to. It makes him look like a real jerk in the pre-reveal content.

This only really worked with Odo IMO, and only because it offered us new stuff both for the character and the villains without changing the nature of any prior episodes. DS9's most morally uncompromising character got a proper moral quandary and the Founders got a bunch of character development because we already knew tons about Odo both physically and psychologically. Like, it was a rare case of the plot twist offering us more about the entire show without pulling the rug out from under anything.

Even if stuff with the Taresians had worked out - like, if they'd been a major force going forward - Harry himself didn't really support that kind of character reveal. His whole deal was that he's not interesting. I mean, that's the joke. It would've completely ruined the character and left the show bereft of a Joe Normal to put through the wringer.
posted by mordax at 9:11 AM on August 6


To avoid abusing edit:
It had no legs for the same reason they couldn't make O'Brien, like, a secret Cardassian. The show needed O'Brien to be a regular guy because that meant the writers had a normal guy to put in bizarre situations. Change him and DS9 is less rich for it, not more.

Harry is Voyager's (surprisingly effective in retrospect) O'Brien. Narratively, they needed him to be a normal person because nobody else could really fill those shoes on the crew.
posted by mordax at 9:15 AM on August 6


it was always gonna be another Trek episode with the hook of "Is this crewmember permanently leaving to go live on this planet we just heard of for the first time? Consult Betteridge's Law"

Sure, but that's pretty much true of every threat Voyager faces. Are they going to find a way out of this problem or will Voyager be destroyed? We know the ship and the major crew members are going to find a way to more or less maintain the status quo every episode, if for no other reason than to have a show the following week. It's more what they do with the idea than any real belief in radical change occurring at the conclusion that matters for a show of this era.

For me, it was more about how they could have used the same rough outline and made it work better than any thought Harry might actually stay on the planet. Having him "actually" be a Taresian, if that was the plan, would have had to involve some decision on his part to leave the planet even though it was home. If they had kept the man killing reproduction needs as a hook, it would be extremely unlikely to be much better than what we ended up with in terms of that choice, but if the siren aspect was dumped, then the whole dilemma might have been more interesting, or not. Who knows?

And yeah, making Harry a Taresian would've been incalculably stupid. That's not really a well that the writers (ANY writers, let alone these) would've been able to go back to—not without developing the Taresians waaaaay more than they obviously intended to, and, well, making them interesting.

Yeah, this is the key part of the problem. Assuming the Taresian thing was who they were going to convert Harry into being, then absent any real knowledge of who the Taresians are, the conversion becomes generic. Harry the blank alien who they'll add detail to on whim rather than, say, as they did with Seven where the Borg bring along a backstory that has its own built in narrative concerns.

A big part of the issue for the show is in how essentialized many of the characters still are at this point. Kes and Harry in particular barely have any real personality development which makes them difficult to write for in a show so based around people as concepts rather than fully developed personalities. Chakotay is the worst example of this of course, but it's something that builds and adjusts over time as the actors take over more of their role and suggest personality traits the writers can then, at least sometimes, continue to build upon. It's a vicious circle though as the actors need episodes built around their characters to show personality development, like the doctor has had, in order to continue to gain more chances for growth and added change over time. If the writers can't find a good starting point for the character, then they have much more difficulty in developing additional traits as well.

Harry as normal guy is coming as much from Wang as the writers at this point, where his lack of dedicated use or focus on his perspective leaves Wang in a secondary role where he acts in support of the other characters more often. He does such a good job with that, that it becomes his determining characteristic from the viewer perspective, even as it doesn't necessarily help the writers in finding more things for him to do since "normal" works against their essentialization interests.

Harry as alien would have likely been a bad idea, in my book, due to Wang's qualities as such an excellent character of support. He provides stability, which is what makes him read so well as "normal" even when that isn't the focus of the writing. It seems that the difficulty may have been in trying to figure out how to put Harry in the spotlight more storywise, while characterwise he isn't an easy fit. The former, as Voyager goes, requires a singular or standout trait, while the latter doesn't fit their formula for episode focus as well. That's a failing of the show in a important way, where they can't seem to find hooks for normal in abnormal conditions and still create interesting character development. They rely far too heavily on exaggeration of traits rather than building from "normal" balance much of the time.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:37 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Or, to put it a different way, the very nature of the show leads to the problems in character development for some of the cast. Voyager is caught in the TNG paradigm, or maybe even more aptly, trapped in the Friends zone, where they a large cast in a show built around telling stories episodically. The inner logic of crew positions in Voyager doesn't really permit some of the cast to easily have stories developed around them as figures of a crew since, for example, Ensign Harry has no real say, power, or crew responsibility to have the action of a dilemma build around his reactions to it.

The show can't use much in the way of continuity derived development to build ongoing character stories since each episode has to stand, somewhat, on its own, at the same time there is the expectation each member of the cast will get their own chance to shine in something like a starring role. This is why the episodes have that revolving lead quality to them, where one episode "is the doctor's", the next Tuvok's, and the following one B'Elanna's.

Making Harry an alien might seem more promising in finding him "starring" possibilities perhaps, but it almost certainly would have just been the Kes of Death in actuality. Giving Kes alien powers did nothing to really help the writers make episodes about her since they still couldn't find in show logic or reason to build episodes making use of her differences in ways that fit the overall needs of the show to be about the ship and crew as a whole episodically. That her alienness had no history and could be revised at will without any further show logic requirements didn't solve the problem, it may have made it even worse. The same, I suspect, would have happened with Harry the alien, so in the long run keeping him "normal" was likely the best solution, even if it means lots of Harry in romantic trouble episodes, which is one area they could work off an individualized template for him.

Eventually though he does get some good stuff to do, in part, I think, due to pushing Tom into the boyfriend role, changing his identification within the show, and by adding Seven, who provided the writers much much more opportunity to build shows around her, and in exchange, losing Kes placed Harry more centrally as the unaffiliated figure of supportive, decent behavior became his alone.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:11 PM on August 6


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