Star Trek: Voyager: The Gift   Rewatch 
August 31, 2017 3:12 AM - Season 4, Episode 2 - Subscribe

"I HAVE TO GO NOW. MY PLANET NEEDS ME." Note: Kes died on the way back to her home planet

Memory Alpha is the gift that keeps on giving:

- This episode's development began with the decision to write the character of Kes out of Star Trek: Voyager. Executive Producer Jeri Taylor commented, "We knew we would probably want to eliminate her in some interesting way." The task of plotting the installment around Kes' departure was tried out on Bryan Fuller. Although he later joined Voyager's writing staff in a full-time capacity, Fuller was, at the time of the episode's origin, a freelance writer who had pitched several ideas to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He recalled, "They were looking for writers on Voyager, so I got called in to rewrite a story; actually, to come up with a way to kill off Kes." It was Co-Executive Producer Brannon Braga who requested that Fuller work on the episode. "He was like, 'Ok, come up with a bunch of ideas to kill off Kes,'" remembered Fuller. "I came up with several of them, and worked on that a little bit." The fledgling writer suggested a means of departure for the character during a pitching session with Braga. Fuller recounted, "I came in and I pitched that her powers were getting away from her and she's evolving into this next phase of the Ocampan evolutionary process. They were like, 'That's great. We're going to do that.'" Although Fuller initially hoped the episode would be his first teleplay credit, the change in production order instead resulted in staffer Joe Menosky writing the script, turning the episode out under an extreme time crunch. Fuller nevertheless concluded, "It was kind of cool to be included in the writing-off of the character."

- The analogy that Janeway makes between the Borg and wolves, in this episode, was much in keeping with the way that members of Star Trek: Voyager's writing staff came to think of the Borg, after considering them as analogous to an addictive drug from which Seven was undergoing cold turkey as well as a cult that Seven was no longer a member of. Joe Menosky explained, "Both of those images are negative. You'd have a main character, who in the back of your mind you're thinking, she's an ex-drug addict, an ex-cult member. We were really thinking about that, and we came up with the idea of the wild child, the wolf child, the little girl who was raised by wolves in a forest and is finally reclaimed by humanity. She always was human, but for a formative period of her life she was also a wolf." Not only was this parallel to Seven obvious to Menosky but he also believed that the Borg were like wolves because, although they could both be seen as very dangerous and frightening, there was also something potentially awe-inspiring about their collective state, such as a wolf pack. Continuing to muse over the merits of this analogy, Menosky related, "That gave us something that was a little ambiguous and it didn't make [Seven] a victim so much. It gave her also an edge of arrogance and haughtiness. That was the image that we settled on."

- Joe Menosky recognized a correlation between Janeway's interactions with the departing Kes and the captain's relationship with the newly arrived Seven of Nine. "There was a parallel with Janeway having to keep things together, going from the new person on board, Seven, to the person who was entering this strange transformation of her own and leaving," Menosky observed. "Janeway was dead in the center of those two relationships, the coming and the parting."

- This was the last regular episode of Star Trek: Voyager that starred Jennifer Lien as Kes. However, she did reprise the role for the sixth season episode "Fury".

- Actress Jeri Ryan found the look of Seven of Nine in the majority of this episode to be detestable. Ryan commented, "In the second episode, I look half-Borg, which is only slightly less horrific than full Borg."

- Jeri Ryan ultimately thought highly of this episode. "It's a very good show and a very good script [....] They did an excellent job with the debate between Seven and Janeway," opined Ryan. "They made the argument not so black and white. Janeway's choices are not clear-cut, and there are no absolutely right or wrong answers." She elaborated, "I applauded the fact that the writers had the guts to make it a gray issue as opposed to a black-and-white one. They didn't make Janeway completely right sitting on her white horse and the Borg completely evil, because they're not. They had a lot of courage to do something like that and I thought it was terrific."

- Tuvok actor Tim Russ listed this episode, midway through the fourth season, as one of five episodes that he characterized as "the defining moments for Tuvok". He further remarked, "The scene in 'The Gift,' where you see Tuvok reacting to Kes having left the ship wasn't perhaps a defining moment, but it was important. I didn't have as much to do in that episode as I thought I might. Her departure ended up being very abrupt."

- After completing this episode, Jeri Ryan said about her relationship with Jennifer Lien, "We rarely crossed paths and I don't know if that was an intentional scheduling thing or not, in order to make the transition easier. We only had two scenes together in the two episodes that overlapped. She was very nice, but I did not get to associate with her much."

- Although Star Trek scribe Ronald D. Moore was aware of the reasoning for the majority of Seven's Borg appliances being removed, he did not approve of the decision to discard them. "Why can't she look like a Borg? Why does she have to be this supermodel with a couple of pieces of tech on her head? It's just silly. It just belies the whole function of bringing her aboard," Moore commented. "If you're gonna bring her aboard because she's a Borg, that's a threat and an odd thing. You want her to be in the face of the crew."

- This episode features the first large-scale jump Voyager makes toward home – in this case, 9,500 light years (otherwise 10 years at maximum warp).

- Like TNG: "Family", this episode deals with the ramifications of a Borg-related two-parter whose second part features a Human character (a regular of the series) being separated from the Borg. (The TNG two-parter is "The Best of Both Worlds" and "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", in which Picard is assimilated and then separated from the Collective, whereas the VOY two-parter is "Scorpion" and "Scorpion, Part II", wherein Seven of Nine is separated from the Collective).

- Seven's infamous costume began as a silver version in "The Gift", which was also used in "Day of Honor" and "Revulsion". It was retired because the material was too restrictive for actress Jeri Ryan's movement and it was difficult for her to breathe in, especially when she sat down.

- Some fans jokingly call Seven "Barbie of Borg" and 36D of 9, due to a common belief that she was brought on board Voyager mainly to boost ratings among male viewers. Jeri Ryan freely admitted this to be true, saying, "I knew exactly what I was in for when I had my first costume fitting. Clearly my character was added to the show for sex appeal, which remains the one way to get attention very quickly. I don't think it's the only way to get viewers to watch strong women, but it worked."

- Kate Mulgrew admitted that she and Jeri Ryan did not see eye-to-eye while filming Voyager because "I had thought 'damn, we were going to forgo all of this with a female captain.' But the demographics proved the audience wanted more sex." However, she reflected that Ryan "did a marvelous job in a very difficult role. It was very clear to anyone with eyes in their head that Jeri Ryan's beauty and sexual appeal were an important part of the numbers."

- In A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, Stephen Edward Poe states that in 1997, when producers were ironing out the details of the introduction of Seven of Nine, they had already lined up Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) to take the bullet and leave in order to free up enough budget for a new main actor. Then that year, Wang was chosen by People Magazine as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World." Suddenly Wang was in, and Lien was out.

- Lien recalled, "I was on for a few seasons, then they asked me to leave. They decided not to renew my contract. I didn't ask why I was not being renewed, I just said 'okay' and moved on."

- Regarding the actress' departure, Rick Berman noted, "I'm a big fan of Jennifer Lien, as we all are. It had nothing to do with her." Additionally, Berman said, "It had nothing to do with Jennifer Lien; she's a lovely actress." However, Jeri Taylor admitted, "These things are never cut-and-dried. It's never one thing. I think Jennifer had a wish to move on, and that coincided with some thinking here. There has not been any rancor or unpleasantness about it [....] I know she will go on to a wonderful career [...] and I will miss her very much." Taylor also said, "It was a mutual feeling [....] [Jennifer Lien] just felt her character wasn't going anywhere, so it was a very amicable and mutual decision."

- Immediately after Kate Mulgrew filmed her scenes of the first four episodes of Star Trek: Voyager's fourth season, she remarked, "She'll probably be a big movie star, you know? I'm sure it's happened for a reason." Mulgrew also speculated, "It may be good [for the series] in the long run. I trust my producers on this level, because they are good people, and they're looking at the welfare of the show." However, Kate Mulgrew also initially struggled with emotionally accepting the fact that Lien was leaving. Shortly after she completed her work on the third season, Mulgrew admitted, "I'm very, very sorry to see Jennifer go. She was a part of the family on the show, but I've been in this business a long time, and nothing surprises me." Following the production of the first four Season 4 installments, Mulgrew commented that the loss of Lien "was a great sorrow to me on many levels, foremost among them being the fracturing of an ensemble cast that was extremely special to me." Moments later, Mulgrew remarked, "At the moment, it's hurtful and difficult to adjust to. I cared a lot about Jennifer, and I think everybody else did too, and as clichéd as it may sound, we were very much like a family. So the loss of that girl has been heartfelt, keenly felt, by all of us [....] This is a sorrow for me [....] Her loss shook me up. It really shook me up."

- In addition, the sense of loss that Mulgrew felt impacted on her, during the making of this episode. She confessed, "I was very upset and I found it very difficult to get through that episode, really difficult." Kate Mulgrew's sadness regarding Jennifer Lien's departure made the filming of one particular scene of this episode challenging for Mulgrew: Janeway's farewell to Kes. "[It was an] awful moment when I had to say goodbye to Jennifer Lien," Mulgrew sadly remembered. "You can well imagine; I had to 'act' what I was in fact feeling, and this is a treacherous terrain."

- Other cast members found Jennifer Lien's departure hard to deal with, too. At about the end of the fourth season, B'Elanna Torres actress Roxann Dawson remarked, "I would be lying if I said it was easy. We're a very close cast. We love Jennifer, and she's very talented. I think that it was easy to see, just looking at her role and the scripts, that they had written her into a corner that they couldn't get out of. It's hard when something like that happens. We all feel awkward about it, and we miss her terribly."

- Likewise, Chakotay actor Robert Beltran commented, "I was sorry that Jenny left, because we were a family. We were very close. [But] they weren't doing much with her anyway. Except for the Kes-driven episodes, she was pretty much a glorified extra, as we all become when we're not intrinsically involved in the episode."

- Robert Picardo was yet another cast member saddened by Lien's departure. In summation of the cast's reaction to the news that Lien was leaving, Brannon Braga offered, "I will say that there were definitely uncomfortable feelings among the cast, which is totally understandable. We let Jennifer Lien go, and brought someone new on [namely, Jeri Ryan], and that's bound to cause some unsettled feelings. There were rough spots here and there, but it's nothing worth noting. Everyone was very professional."


"I guess the Borg meet a lot of people, don't they?"
"..."
"Stupid question... So, what's it like out there, in Galactic Cluster 3?"
"Beyond your comprehension."
"Try me."
"Galactic cluster three is a trans-material energy plane intersecting twenty-two billion omnicordial life-forms."
"Ah... Interesting. (Kim walks away, looking utterly defeated)

- Kim and Seven of Nine


"I'm just giving you back what was stolen from you; the existence you were denied; the child who never had a chance; that life is yours to live, now."
"I don't want that life!"
"It's what you are. Don't resist it!"

- Janeway and Seven of Nine


"She threw us safely beyond Borg space. 10 years closer to home."

- Janeway, moved by Kes's parting gift.


"I also took the liberty of stimulating your hair follicles. A vicarious experience for me, as you might imagine."

- The Doctor, to Seven of Nine


Poster's Log:
Objectively, this is a pretty solid episode. On this rewatch, I was particularly struck by the adroitness of the parallel story structure, and by the acting all around. The whole thing of Janeway deciding Seven is incapable of making a choice for herself is also pretty rich material, suitable perhaps for discussion. (In this case, I personally don't see a reason to gainsay Janeway. That's a great phrase: gainsay Janeway.)

Subjectively, however, this one is hard to enjoy. Since the very first time I saw it, the Kes departure stuff feels way too rushed and forced, and I think that has a lot less to do with the execution than with the behind-the-scenes metaknowledge. What's funny, too, is that on my first watch of VOY, I wasn't that into the Kes character, yet I still thought they made her go out like a bit of a punk, and it tainted my appreciation of this episode itself and, more impactfully, my response to the Seven character for most of the series' subsequent seasons (and it didn't help that the first half of season 4 is basically The Seven of Nine and Friends Hour, however appropriate or necessary it may have been to put extra focus on the new addition). Now, I've warmed more to both characters, but this episode remains hard to swallow. In that way, it's nice to see that the cast and crew seem to have been similarly ill at ease about it.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Here's a short video clip with Jeri Ryan discussing "Force field acting," alongside her costars from the Amazon series she's on right now, Bosch.

In keeping with the divergent parallel structure motif: I didn't want to include it in the episode background, but recent years have apparently been rough for Jennifer Lien.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
As we bid farewell to Kes, let's take a moment to remember her shrieking scream. Lien could really belt it out. Bring the fire, Kes!
posted by Servo5678 at 7:39 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]


I agree with this being a tough one to enjoy, knowing what we know. I mean, it's not bad that they can tie in Kes going full Dark Phoenix to Species 8472 trying to hack her brain telepathically; the original Dark Phoenix was unleashed when an evil mutant, Mastermind, used his illusions to seduce her to the dark side, without having any real idea of what he was dealing with. And, of course, Trek has a long history of people getting cosmic-level powers (and often the A God Am I megalomania to go with it) and/or transcending this level of existence; from Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner in the second pilot to Charles Evans and Trelane, to Will Decker and the Ilia-probe in TMP, to the Traveler and Wesley Crusher (although Wesley shows up in Nemesis wearing a Starfleet uniform again, sans explanation). I thought that there was even an implication that Kes was disrupting the fabric of reality simply by observing it directly, in some turbocharged version of the observer effect; this also ties in with Wesley telling the Traveler that the implication of the equations that he was studying was that time and space and thought were one, and the Traveler, instead of telling Wesley that he sounded like a college freshman after his first joint, cautioned him against spreading that sort of thing around. They also do some nice things with Kes' imminent departure; the Neelix scene was nice, although it papers over his previous jealousy, and I thought that Kate Mulgrew really aced her goodbye scene with Kes--those were real tears in her eyes. But, ultimately, we know that Kes becoming one with everything at this particular point is purely for the convenience of a studio that doesn't want too many recurring characters. Even if they didn't want that, there's no reason why we couldn't have had future Kes appearances where she ties up the loose end of Suspiria and the super-Ocampans and maybe even establishing her own transcendent continuum and having philosophical discussions with the Q and the Organians and whomever else. Instead, her solitary future appearance is just weird, ugly and stupid, IMO.

Similarly, there are some great ideas in the Seven parts of the episode, although the ultimate outcome of the de-Borgification is the Barbification. Her calling out Janeway's hypocrisy (although I can understand Janeway worrying that Seven wasn't yet capable of really independent decisions regarding returning to the Collective; adult guardianship or conservatorship is a thing, and it seems to have done, to pick a prominent example, Britney Spears a world of good) reminded me of Michael Eddington's similar "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Sisko in "For the Cause"; as with Eddington, Seven's speech isn't really being given by a dispassionate observer, but the fact that two very different people on opposite sides of the galaxy are making basically the same point should be food for thought. There's even some justification for the silver bodysuit, in that the earlier scenes show her with what looks like textured duct tape on one shoulder; if they're supposed to be high-tech bandages that are aiding in her human cell regeneration and/or suppression of the Borg nanites, then it might make some sense for Seven to have a full-body version, in the way that we have postoperative and edema-suppressing compression garments today. But the people who wear these types of garments don't wear only those garments, they wear regular clothes on top of them; Seven could have put a regular uniform, some civilian variant, or even some kind of smock/surgical scrub-type thing such as the ones we used to see the enlisted crew wearing on TOS. (It says something that, even though Ryan was relieved to not have to wear the heavy and restrictive full-Borg gear, she used to wear a bathrobe on the set between shots. The bodysuit was restrictive in other ways; she had to be sewn into it at the start of filming, and if she needed to use the restroom, she had to have someone with wardrobe accompany her to cut her out of the suit and sew her back in afterwards.) Following up on some of the ideas I had in the previous post re: redesigns, they could have given her a costume that incorporated some gadgets with blinky lights, of the sort that the Doctor will occasionally stick on someone to monitor and/or treat a special condition, as a parallel of people who have to travel with oxygen tanks or insulin pumps; this could have prompted some wry commentary from Seven as to how she'd basically just switched one implant out for another that was less efficient.

Don't even get me started on the high heels. FFS, Doctor. I may have posted a link to the Bikini Armor Battle Damage Tumblr before [occasionally NSFW], but I'll do so again; they haven't commented on Seven specifically that I can find, but have occasionally done so with Star Trek in general, and their latest post is about Discovery's progressive uniform choices. Specifically, no high heels.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:19 AM on August 31 [3 favorites]


Following up on some of the ideas I had in the previous post re: redesigns, they could have given her a costume that incorporated some gadgets with blinky lights, of the sort that the Doctor will occasionally stick on someone to monitor and/or treat a special condition, as a parallel of people who have to travel with oxygen tanks or insulin pumps; this could have prompted some wry commentary from Seven as to how she'd basically just switched one implant out for another that was less efficient.

It is pretty disappointing that Voyager demonstrates most of the Borg Bits and Bobs are extraneous. It makes sense that Picard could be de-borgified back to something 100% human, since Locutus was the Borg equivalent of a quick hack job. Seven of Nine spent a significant majority of her life as a Borg and she comes away as 95% normal looking afterwards? Either the Doctor practiced some pretty advanced medicine to get her that way or the in-universe Borg operate on the same principle as the costume designers. It would've been really cool to have the implication that Seven left behind a lot of important parts when she shed her Borg exoskeleton and now she gets to live as the 24th century's idea of a disabled human.

What we end up with is like imagining an alternative ending to Return of the Jedi where Darth Vader escapes and comes back as passably human rather than some gross meat stuffed into a robot.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:06 PM on August 31 [3 favorites]


Particle of the Week: "A new realm, beyond the subatomic."
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: There are several possible ways to have Borg on your crew. The two that most resemble Seven are the female engineer from the cash shop and the male science officer from a mission. The woman can be left as-is, complete with exoskeleton, but can also be dressed up in a variety of outfits, including a Seven-themed catsuit. The male officer cannot be altered in any way.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 17.
* Shuttles: Down 5, as Kes takes one with her.
* Crew: 142. I thought that was a poor decision at the time, and the rewatch has only reinforced that: Jennifer Lien was good at her job, and she got shafted in most of her time on Voyager.
* 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:
* This is a hard watch, and a harder rewatch.

Star Trek tries very hard to be progressive - I have cut the franchise a lot of slack personally because they aspire to be better than they are. TOS put a black woman, Asian man and loud and proud Russian on the bridge all at a time when those were not things shows did. DS9 did some great work with both Sisko and Kira. Voyager did put Kate Mulgrew on the bridge. One of the things that has always appealed to me about Trek is that at its best, it's aspirational: as a kid, I didn't enjoy watching these characters because they had sweet magic powers or kicked ass, but because they were better. Thoughtful. Considerate. Smart. Dedicated.

At the same time, the franchise's fails are pretty egregious: I've talked about their views about race essentialism lots of times in the past. TOS is also the franchise that codified the Theiss Titillation Theory (warning, TVTropes). Sexism and Star Trek go hand in hand, always have.

On one level, Seven of Nine is definitely one of their failures: while I don't have a problem with fanservice generally, this was about as hamfisted a gesture as I've ever seen. The catsuit's terrible. Replacing Jennifer Lien with the whole 'my planet needs me thing,' (my brain went the same place), is disrespectful and terrible.

They handled this about as badly as they could, and from the backstage stuff we read this time and last, it's pretty clear a lot of that was completely intentional. I'm glad Ronald D. Moore disapproved, anyway.

* I do like Seven.

This left me a bit conflicted during the original airing: while I despise the motivations behind including Seven and her costume is an affront, I think Jeri Ryan really did rise to the occasion. She has the right bearing for this. I also like that they offered moral complexity in the discussion about 'does Janeway have a right to do this?' Seven pushing back with some legitimate points was smart. Seven standing up to Janeway generally is good, and an element I remember enjoying from this point on. I also like Seven offering a different perspective on the Borg: it's easy to see why someone wouldn't want to be assimilated, (*I* certainly wouldn't want to be), but it's also easy to see why someone spending their entire life in that environment might prefer it. (Nigh invulnerability, vast knowledge, certainty, drive, etc. Reminds me of that Bob the Angry Flower cartoon that was linked before.)

So... yeah. I have mixed feelings about this because I do think she's a good character in spite of why they did this.

* Voyager: land of missed opportunities. Again.

Bouncing Voyager out of Borg space was such a waste. We could've had a season of them playing hide and seek, meeting ruined and paranoid civilizations, etc. Instead... newp. Kes shoved them out of harm's way instead. It was... hm. I guess it was the same as losing Lien: it was, above all else, lazy.

* I'm disappointed they didn't do more with Kes' transition.

Even if they didn't want that, there's no reason why we couldn't have had future Kes appearances where she ties up the loose end of Suspiria and the super-Ocampans and maybe even establishing her own transcendent continuum and having philosophical discussions with the Q and the Organians and whomever else. Instead, her solitary future appearance is just weird, ugly and stupid, IMO.

Right? Kes going all cosmic reminded me of nothing so much as Daniel Jackson's position with the Ancients in Stargate SG-1. She could've moved on to bigger and better things, and maybe popped in to guest a time or two for sweeps. It's especially disappointing because Kes stays good. On rewatch, the first thing this reminded me of was definitely Gary Mitchell, and I thought it was really cool that Kes stayed good even when she could've torn the ship in half. It seemed true to her character. They could've used that later.

Instead? 'Weird, ugly and stupid' definitely covers her brief return, IIRC.

So... yeah. Mixed bag, here. I like Seven, and I think Jeri Ryan did a fine job with the role. I don't like her wardrobe, and like it even less after hearing how inconvenient it was on-set. I resent losing Kes over this, and I feel like this story cut a lot of corners on events that should've taken half the season to play out.
posted by mordax at 12:00 AM on September 1 [4 favorites]


I don't think there was anything lazy about Kes's departure. At best, we maybe could have spent a little more time during the episode seeing her goodbyes, or watching the crew react. They hit most of her essential relationships. The only part I felt was actually missing was a scene with The Doctor, since he was her closest friend and the person we saw her interact with the most. But the actual story was an in-universe-logical progression of her abilities and something that had been teased, developed, and built up toward for 3 seasons. It is one of the more consistent and ongoing plot lines for the half of the show.

Furthermore, her personal story arc felt a lot more complete than Kim's. She was clearly ready for the next step, and eager to explore more of the universe rather than spending her entire life on Voyager. This had already been established in previous episodes. Relegate Kim to a more minor role? Maybe. But it's hard to believe they ever wanted to write off Kim instead of Kes, because it makes so much more sense for it to be Kes.

(Not to mention that it was likely easier to write Kim into episodes, as a bridge officer. He can get a couple lines in [any random episode] and stay on screen, and even build a little characterization from time to time. Because of their roles and their actual position on the ship, it was seemingly harder for them to keep Neelix and Kes as involved with episodes that didn't focus on them. The earlier episode where Neelix was feeling like he no longer had a place in the crew seemed to reflect as much from out-of-universe frustrations as it did from in-universe.)

They showed a lot of respect to the actress. They gave her a good departure, and left it open for her return. Kes didn't turn evil or do something that would harm all of her character development up to this point. And her final act as a regular was to help the crew in a big, big way. As an actor leaving a TV series, that's honestly about the best it can get. I would have loved to see her return 2 or 3 more times in a better capacity than what we got, but there are so many factors that go into something like that, I'm not surprised it didn't happen.

I don't like her wardrobe, and like it even less after hearing how inconvenient it was on-set.

Good news, the silver suit seems to have been the one with all of these problems and it disappears after about 2 episodes. It isn't as if they forced her to suffer for 4 seasons, they realized there was a problem and fixed it. (The full Borg costume gave a different set of issues from what I understand.)

Despite any and all complaints about the behind-the-scenes stuff, I'm going to be bold and say 7 of 9 was the best thing that happened to this show. She is by far the most interesting character. She brings some of the best stories. And her relationships with other crew members have so much intrigue. She is a more useful character than Kes, with regards to plot. Yes, they occasionally overplay her character but I don't think it is as bad as most make it out to be.

I once looked at Seven's impact on the show by analyzing the number of lines each character gets during the season. In this regard, she becomes the second most important character on the show, still trailing far behind Janeway. Her impact is not nearly as shocking as you would expect. The biggest character she affected was Tuvok - whose role drops pretty severely from about 12% in S1-3 down to under 7.5% in S5-7. Neelix role dropped to its lowest until picking up again in S7. Torres' was falling every year until heading up again in S6-7, so it's hard to blame Seven for that one.
posted by 2ht at 4:56 AM on September 1 [4 favorites]


Furthermore, her personal story arc felt a lot more complete than Kim's. She was clearly ready for the next step, and eager to explore more of the universe rather than spending her entire life on Voyager. This had already been established in previous episodes.

True, and as Mrs. CoB points out, the writers were under a time crunch. Given that they had exactly one episode in which to pull this off, I definitely think Kes's departure could have been handled a lot worse—by some other franchise for which viewers would have lower expectations; maybe this feels hacky because it's hacky by comparison with most of Star Trek. Mrs. CoB calls the final execution "desperate and uninspired, but not necessarily lazy," and I guess I largely concur. I personally think a lazy aspect to it was the way that Kes's abilities ramp up so suddenly that it inescapably felt like narrative convenience, even though they tried to imply that her encounter with 8472 was the catalyst. That whole connection could have been clearer, and maybe more menacing. But they only had about forty-five minutes, of course.

At best, we maybe could have spent a little more time during the episode seeing her goodbyes, or watching the crew react. They hit most of her essential relationships. The only part I felt was actually missing was a scene with The Doctor, since he was her closest friend and the person we saw her interact with the most.

Yeah. I mean, if they'd cut a bunch of the Seven stuff to make more space for Kes stuff here, maybe by relegating Seven to unconsciousness or surgery for most of the episode, then it would have lost the nifty parallel-storyline thing—but it may have been a price worth paying.

Relegate Kim to a more minor role? Maybe. But it's hard to believe they ever wanted to write off Kim instead of Kes, because it makes so much more sense for it to be Kes. (Not to mention that it was likely easier to write Kim into episodes, as a bridge officer.

True. This must be part of what gusottertrout has been referring to w/r/t the weirdness of the Kim/Kes choice.

Despite any and all complaints about the behind-the-scenes stuff, I'm going to be bold and say 7 of 9 was the best thing that happened to this show. She is by far the most interesting character. She brings some of the best stories. And her relationships with other crew members have so much intrigue. She is a more useful character than Kes, with regards to plot. Yes, they occasionally overplay her character but I don't think it is as bad as most make it out to be.

This is definitely something I had been planning to watch for on this rewatch.

I once looked at Seven's impact on the show by analyzing the number of lines each character gets during the season. In this regard, she becomes the second most important character on the show, still trailing far behind Janeway. Her impact is not nearly as shocking as you would expect. The biggest character she affected was Tuvok - whose role drops pretty severely from about 12% in S1-3 down to under 7.5% in S5-7.

Interesting stuff, thanks. And somehow I knew you were gonna say Tuvok!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:45 AM on September 1 [2 favorites]


No surprise on Tuvok, Seven pretty much stole both the superiority thing and the trying to deal with human emotions concern that are pretty much the hallmark of writing about Vulcans for the franchise. Dawson missed some time to pregnancy, but I'm not sure how much that might also have made an impact on her screen time in comparison to Seven. Neelix? More likely he lost time to the doctor than Seven I'd think, and even more likely lost time to being something of a lost cause in other ways.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:49 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


I will say that, regardless of the behind-the-scenes reasons for Kes' departure, the episode gave her much more respect than was given to the departures of Jadzia Dax (abruptly killed off with barely enough time to say goodbye to Worf, although her loss was addressed in subsequent episodes) or Dr. Crusher or Yeoman Rand (no chance to say goodbye for either, although Crusher came back, and Rand made guest appearance in future iterations of the franchise).

Also, 2ht, holy crap that sounds like a heck of a project. Did you actually make a spreadsheet? It would be fascinating to look at.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:03 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Also, 2ht, holy crap that sounds like a heck of a project. Did you actually make a spreadsheet? It would be fascinating to look at.

Sorry! I want to be fair and point out that this site did all of the hard work! They have full transcripts and even compiled the line counts on an episode-by-episode basis. All I did was aggregate it, and look at how big a role each character played in each season. I meant to link to that in my post but I got distracted wondering how badly I would be lambasted for proclaiming Seven as the best thing to happen to the show :-)

(That website also has other Trek series transcripts, and Doctor Who. Someday I'll get around to scraping it all and looking at those characters, and even doing some more in depth analysis on their dialogue. I'd love to be able to tell which show relies more on technobabble plot resolutions!)

Here's a snapshot of the dialogue percentages.

What I find most fascinating is how season 7 sort of shook things up a bit. I'm curious to see what changed during that season (and discover the behind the scenes reasoning).

I personally think a lazy aspect to it was the way that Kes's abilities ramp up so suddenly that it inescapably felt like narrative convenience, even though they tried to imply that her encounter with 8472 was the catalyst.

That's fair (then again, narrative convenience is sort of par for the course with Trek). I do wish they had made the Species 8472 connection stronger. In fact, after the episode I went searching to figure out if I had missed the explanation somewhere, but the only thing I found was a vague comment from the doctor saying that her brain was hyperstimulated like it was when around Species 8472. I think 1 or 2 lines of dialogue somewhere could have really tied the story up better, but (at least on rewatch) I felt her 'evolution' was pretty well-earned.
posted by 2ht at 8:45 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


I don't think there was anything lazy about Kes's departure.

You don't have to, I think it enough for at least three or four people. ;)

Kes was a classic Voyager missed opportunity. They posited a set of intriguing ideas, then discarded those ideas as soon as they involved some work:

- Kes ages rapidly. This is a neat idea, but instead of running with it, we only got a brief glimpse at what it'd be like to have Kes spend about 90% of her natural life on the ship, and die of old age. It's clear they just didn't want to follow through with that.

- Kes is going to a higher plane of existence. It's true that at this point in the show's run, they haven't dropped the ball there yet, but we do know they did later in a big and bad way. Her reappearance is just bad. Moreoever, nobody in the episode itself talks about the other Ocampans, the events in Cold Fire or anything like that. Nobody speculates about where she might go. They literally have to run her off the ship before she destroys it instead of trying to learn more about this.

Basically, they wrote themselves into a corner, promising payoff on a bunch of ideas they didn't actually want to see through. It's parallel to their reaction to Voyager reaching Borg space: instead of writing themselves out of it in an interesting way or simply getting ferried across by transwarp, Voyager got shoved out of it by deus ex machina.

I'm a writer myself, and I don't like when people lean too hard on 'a wizard did it' when there are plausible alternatives. It's a Trek staple, but it's one I'll almost always complain about.

Good news, the silver suit seems to have been the one with all of these problems and it disappears after about 2 episodes.

I didn't explain that one well enough either, then: her introduction was insulting, and damaged my appreciation for the show at the time. That's the network telling me, 'we don't think you'll watch unless we show some tits. We think you're that shallow, and we think we have so little else to offer that it's come to this.'

I was in the target demographic when this was airing, and I really wanted to like Voyager, and this all made the deal that much harder: it was more embarrassing to talk about it with peers, and I was genuinely offended. Them pulling a stunt like this contributed my dropping Voyager during its original run.

The worst part is, I agree with everything else you said about her:

She is by far the most interesting character. She brings some of the best stories. And her relationships with other crew members have so much intrigue.

I think this is all true, making the stunt aspects of this completely unnecessary. Seven's actually really cool: she's got a genuinely uncomfortable and alien perspective, and Jeri Ryan completely sells it. Honestly, that's why the rest of it is so irritating: Seven is a good character, and did result in many good stories.

Elaborating on that a little, instead of arguing: one of my favorite characters on TNG/DS9 is Worf, and I think of Seven as being very Worf-like: clinging to a very particular and idealized vision of an alien culture as a defense mechanism against a bunch of childhood trauma she experienced, producing a character that's both very layered and has a lot of good observations about the human condition. Instead of being a naive alien learning about this thing called love, she's got a bunch of strong opinions about how inferior humans are, and that's fun. I legitimately love this bit in The Gift:
SEVEN: You would deny us the choice as you deny us now. You have imprisoned us in the name of humanity, yet you will not grant us your most cherished human right. To choose our own fate. You are hypocritical, manipulative. We do not want to be what you are. Return us to the Collective!
It's not as simple as she makes it out to be, but she's not entirely wrong, making her argument with Janeway loads of fun. That actually was what I wanted out of a Borg stuck on a Starfleet ship. (Her take on Borg-dom is just leaps and bounds beyond Hugh.)

Interesting stuff, thanks. And somehow I knew you were gonna say Tuvok!

Agreed. The numbers are interesting. That's more or less what I would've expected to hear: IIRC, Janeway didn't really lose any ground, but Tuvok really did.

Sorry! I want to be fair and point out that this site did all of the hard work!

I've been leaning on them throughout this rewatch as well, particularly to verify photon torpedo counts or get spellings for weird terms. It's a great place. :)
posted by mordax at 11:58 AM on September 1 [2 favorites]


This is an odd episode, it perhaps works better in the abstract than as shown in some ways, being too rushed and a bit overfull and scattered in its ideas. Yet it isn't a bad episode even so, just not as effective as it should have been given the balance of ideas at its center.

The dilemma for Janeway regarding the choices, or lack thereof, Kes and Seven wished to make is fairly compelling, but the quickness of Kes's transformation and Seven's acceptance renders the more difficult parts of those thoughts a bit more muted than they could be to best explore the notions of free will and authority.

It isn't so much that I feel Kes's departure got short shrift, since, really, she had three going away episodes in a way, something I strongly suspect was the original intent of each of her last "starring" slots with the decision made to convert two of them to precursors rather than actual going away episodes. The tacked on and unsatisfying ending of her romance with sexy traveller dude being particularly noteworthy as one designed for goodbye, but converted to a "just kidding about the love thing, but destiny awaits" so they could keep her for practical reasons in "communicating" with Species 8472. The wonky time Life of Kes episode was too good to pass up and gave the writers a chance to shorthand their plans for her and could also have served as a departure, but, again, leaving her for the transition made more practical sense.

As such, it works well enough in concept, building a bit off the Kes out of time episode in her method of departure, while also tying in her psychic abilities and a chance to settle up with the crew. It isn't ideal, since the Lien was an excellent part of the cast, so the wasted opportunity is hard to ignore, and that informs a feeling of Kes being forced out more than an organic development of her character, which could have been mitigated a bit by drawing out the transformation through at least a couple more episodes instead of trying to pack it all into one.

On the other side, Seven's transformation also seemed a bit more rushed than it needed to be, where her acceptance comes a bit too easily and unnecessarily explicit rather than something grown into. It also causes some slight ongoing incoherence, or maybe fluctuation in how one thinks of who she is. The mix of young girl and mature adult isn't very satisfyingly integrated as they move back and forth on it at different times, often to unsettling or worse effect, while at the same time they, generally, at least avoid falling too deeply into anime tropes on the mix. Seven is primarily handled as a fully aware adult, but with some occasional tilts towards the child side that are not always well balanced. At least that's my memory of it.

How to account for that or come to some better accounting of the respective merits of each approach and the attempts at mixture is difficult since each carries different implications for the character and how she should be handled. This goes towards everything about Seven and how she is written and shown.

Her costume is the most obvious and controversial aspect of this, but it too carries a variety of implications and effect that are difficult to separate without first making some assumptions on who Seven is or should be, which isn't entirely consistent within the show in action and especially depiction.

Seven's body suit look unquestionably was designed to give the show more "sex appeal" there simply is no mistaking that. That design is part of a long history of sexualization of women for prurient attentions that goes well beyond Trek, even as Trek is no stranger to it either. As such, any time a woman is given a strongly sexualized look it can reasonably be felt as purely objectifying the subject as we see it as part of that seemingly endless trend. But at the same time, there can also be reasonable uses of physical or sexual identity, where the attitude or display carries additional significance or purpose. In the case of Seven I think both are true, to varying degrees throughout the show's run. In this episode, our introduction to the bodysuit is one of a strong male gaze, the suit is of minimal importance in itself compared to the way Taylor is filmed in a full body shot from both sides emphasizing her sexual appeal to no other end than prurient satisfaction. The suit is the accomplice to the objectification of the camera, but it is the camera that is the primary offender here.

I differentiate the two because I also think the suit provided a strong additional effect for the character of Seven as written in other circumstances. Not only is it iconic as few things from not only Trek but any show are, it also informs who the character is and, well, embodies the character and her difference from the rest of the crew to strong effect. Seven as a former Borg has a strong drive for perfection, she is imposing, self secure, doesn't not readily accept judgment from others, finds great fault in weakness, and stands apart from the rest of the crew. The suit visually accentuates those qualities to strong effect contrasted against the other cast members. It helps set her apart and as "alien" in a way that all the silly ear, nose, and forehead makeup alone never does. Seven is one of the few really successful outsider characters the show develops, far better than Neelix, Kes, and Tuvok whose differences become subsumed by their similarities or conformity with the other crew members.

This, for me, is even the case when Seven is compared against most of the other outsiders in the franchise and other sci-fi shows with alien characters. It is, of course, a tribute to Taylor as well, but the effect is of Taylor as presented in costume and character, so the elements are difficult to separate without much speculation and assertion over what it most important and what would be "better", given that tends towards reliance on counterfactuals.

There's nothing wrong with that, and there is certainly much room for discussion on the issue, but I also have to take account of the effect which really did work in some beneficial ways for the character and the show, even as there are also many associated problems that arise with how the show handles Taylor and Seven as well. Many of the proposed recostume ideas for Seven seem to me to threaten to weaken the character as she is written and portrayed, they soften or encumber from ideas of hiding the body as focal purpose without necessarily connecting the attitude to the clothes. There is some feeling in that of desexualization and or body denial is always preferable to body emphasis or sexualization. That is not congruent with how people actually live and can become as single focused as prurience is if followed too far.

There are many things that can be questioned about Seven, and there is certainly room to "rewrite" her character to where she is less "Prussian officer" or a faint echo of Khan's ideal match of perfection in mind and body and able to be weaker or more insecure or many other things, and those choices may indeed have been better, but that isn't the character we have so the discussions need to sort out those distinctions as well as among the other contributing factors to how we see Seven, such as how she is shot and how they write her in comparison to how they show her.

My feeling is that its a really mixed bag of good and bad that we pare down into our own overall image of the character, while emphasizing the things we are most comfortable with. Sexualization onscreen is a difficult subject because it can be both powerful and demeaning, and often both depending on who is looking or who one is attending to. I think there is some real complexity of interaction and perspective here that I'm not too eager to try to simplify.

I had some other thoughts on the show, but I, once again, got caught up in a extended digression so I've forgotten them for the moment. Maybe later, or if you're really lucky, maybe not.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:06 PM on September 1


(Her take on Borg-dom is just leaps and bounds beyond Hugh.)

Indeed, and it's also to the VOY writers' credit that they didn't forget to confront her with her Borg past from time to time, so she could interact with other Borg and further develop both the Borg as a worldbuilding element and her own perspective.

the suit is of minimal importance in itself compared to the way Taylor is filmed in a full body shot from both sides

You mixed up Jeri Ryan and Jeri Taylor. As far as I'm aware they never made Jeri Taylor wear a leotard!

I differentiate the two because I also think the suit provided a strong additional effect for the character of Seven as written in other circumstances. Not only is it iconic as few things from not only Trek but any show are, it also informs who the character is and, well, embodies the character and her difference from the rest of the crew to strong effect. Seven as a former Borg has a strong drive for perfection, she is imposing, self secure, doesn't not readily accept judgment from others, finds great fault in weakness, and stands apart from the rest of the crew. The suit visually accentuates those qualities to strong effect contrasted against the other cast members. It helps set her apart and as "alien" in a way that all the silly ear, nose, and forehead makeup alone never does. Seven is one of the few really successful outsider characters the show develops, far better than Neelix, Kes, and Tuvok whose differences become subsumed by their similarities or conformity with the other crew members.

This is true (and, as an aside, would be yet another reason for any remaining Maquis sympathizers to go "Hey, some Borg person joins the crew and they AREN'T made to wear a Starfleet uniform? What's the deal wi— Oh. THAT's the deal"). Yet, if memory serves, one thing about Seven-as-outsider compared with, say, Spock- or Data-as outsider is that, in the latter two cases, the characters both remained outsiders yet made evident "progress" away from outsiderhood. To the best of my recollection, the Seven character scarcely changes for the next three seasons, except of course for getting less pissed off at Janeway basically immediately—but it's very possible I'm totally wrong and I hope I am.

There is some feeling in that of desexualization and or body denial is always preferable to body emphasis or sexualization. That is not congruent with how people actually live and can become as single focused as prurience is if followed too far.

Sure, but here, I think there's a very good reason to object to the sexualization beyond mere puritanism or disgust at the studio heads or feeling as though the show thinks we're dumb: If Seven is such a "feral child" that she can't be relied upon to make decisions for herself, then surely she also lacks the maturity level at which it would be AT ALL OKAY to put her into getup like that, where even a 24th-century observer would take one look at it and conclude either (A) "Wow, here is a very emotionally mature woman, willing to embrace and use her own sexuality, go girl" or (B) "Whoever put this newly-de-Borged woman into that thing needs a talking-to." Again, we all know the REAL reason why she wears it (the ratings), but even the in-universe reasoning, while opaque, is troubling. At any rate, "how people actually live" is one thing (and that is why putting B'Elanna or Dax or Crusher into the occasional leotard for their workout day isn't half as squicky); nothing about Seven so far should reflect how average people conduct their lives because she's almost not even a person yet and certainly doesn't have a typical life.

And let's not forget that there's a lot more to the objectification of Seven than the costume. I'm halfway through season 4 right now and there have been three or four scenes where the purpose behind her writing is sexual (not to mention, of course, the more obvious ones like Ransom's hologram and the Doctor painting her nude). Now we can, to a point, justify that insofar as "it's implausible for, say, Harry to not be rendered a bit hot and bothered by her," but (A) so far I'm unaware of any writing that factors in Seven's point of view on these Adult Situations alongside or instead of the male point of view, and (B) just when you think the writers might ease off a little, they give us an episode like "Waking Moments" where you suspect the writers' initial goal was "Have Seven pounce on Harry, whatever flimsy pretext is necessary to achieve it" |:(

In that sense, it's debatable to me which series handled its eye-candy character more ickily: VOY or TNG (Troi). Troi DID get violated more often, but IIRC got squicky-leery-male-gaze-y stuff a lot less often*—in fact, I only recall that one weird episode where they get abducted from Betazed by Ferengi.
(* = Not to go too far off on a tangent, but really TNG's one scripted acknowledgement of Troi's outfits was in "Chain of Command" where Captain Jellico—who evidently IS a bit of a prude—tells her to put on a real uniform and she's visibly irritated!)

there is certainly room to "rewrite" her character to where she is less "Prussian officer" or a faint echo of Khan's ideal match of perfection in mind and body and able to be weaker or more insecure or many other things

Yes, I'll agree that they could have taken the character in a lot of different directions and they chose a pretty good one. Having her be so strong and opinionated and intransigent provides, as others have indicated, a needed shake-up to the crew's interaction. So in a way, one might almost say that adding Seven to the show was both the best and worst thing to happen to VOY. (Actually, the WORST thing to happen was probably Ronald D. Moore giving up on it.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:55 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


You mixed up Jeri Ryan and Jeri Taylor.

Whaa? Sonuvabitch...I didn't even notice...

Sure, but here, I think there's a very good reason to object to the sexualization beyond mere puritanism or disgust at the studio heads or feeling as though the show thinks we're dumb

Of course there is. I just saying that focusing too much on sexuality or physical display alone can have problems of its own if done haphazardly or with too much zeal. It isn't to suggest there is no problem with sexualization at all or even that how Seven/Ryan are treated isn't also often problematic, it is. I took it as a given we're aware of that and mentioned it as a significant element, it's just not the only factor involved.

At any rate, "how people actually live" is one thing (and that is why putting B'Elanna or Dax or Crusher into the occasional leotard for their workout day isn't half as squicky); nothing about Seven so far should reflect how average people conduct their lives because she's almost not even a person yet and certainly doesn't have a typical life.

The point is merely that sexual identity and body display are complicated in real life and that has both a carry over effect into how we see things in fiction and in how we might better think about the issue. It isn't meant as a justification for Seven's outfit or anything else. I would question the idea that the occasional leotard or swimsuit isn't as squicky when it is used as an excuse to show off characters that may not otherwise get a "showing" I think there are ways that can be worse as more a violation of character for prurient pleasure.

And let's not forget that there's a lot more to the objectification of Seven than the costume. I'm halfway through season 4 right now and there have been three or four scenes where the purpose behind her writing is sexual (not to mention, of course, the more obvious ones like Ransom's hologram and the Doctor painting her nude

Yes, I agree with that and suggested the same. There are often problem's in the writing and particularly with the doctor's character, who, for me, falls off a cliff in terms of enjoyment from previous seasons once they start building his "relationship" with Seven. There is some of that even in this episode where the doctor is given the responsibility of choosing Seven's look in part for its "aesthetics" with the suggestion being he didn't even consult with her somehow and for reasons unknown. That's obviously a problem, but it'll be in keeping with his character from now on more or less. As far as I'm concerned, Neelix is the better character from here on out.

My overall point is that the problem is more nuanced and complex than simply Seven's outfit's bad. Both the good and bad are tied to the outfit and how it is used, but also to the writing of her character and that of those Seven interacts with. So much of the talk gets tied to her clothes that it often can sound like its as much a criticism of Ryan herself rather than the entire process involved in the creation and writing of Seven. Liking the character in this way is liking something entirely entangled in problematic elements that go beyond the outfit to the entire conception and purpose of her being on the show.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:23 AM on September 2


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