Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Review: Voyager 3.10: Warlord

Kes tries to become more fashion conscious with her new collar.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Ten - Warlord
Written 31/8/15

One of the things that can be levelled against Kes is that her character only becomes really interesting whenever the show's spotlight is directly pointed at her. This is something that crops up a lot, and there is some truth to it. That is less to do with the character's premise and more to do with the writers, who created this incredibly bizarre and alien character only to end up giving time to Neelix. I say this because, as a Kes fan, this is the episode I've been waiting for for a long time - the episode that the whole Kes/Neelix relationship comes to its halting conclusion, and which spends the majority of its runtime developing Kes' character. Tears of joy abound.
     Voyager saves a small ship with three member of the Ilari race aboard, one of whom dies. Janeway offers to take them to their home planet, which isn't far off their path, but when they approach Ilari, Kes stuns some guards and runs off with the two aliens. A meeting with the son of the planet's leader reveals that Kes has been possessed by the mind of Tieran, an ancient Ilari leader who has managed to preserve his consciousness such that he can depose the ruling family and rise again. Tieran and his followers attack the central government building and he takes his place as leader using Kes' body. Tuvok attempts to infiltrate the compound, and manages to meld with Tieran for a few seconds. Ultimately his attempt fails but this gives Kes' consciousness the strength she needs to put Tieran in a lot of pain, When Voyager's crew storms the building, Kes is freed of Tieran's mind.
     Jennifer Lien obviously gets a lot of screentime this week, playing the dual roles of Tieran and Kes, and sometimes a little in between. It mostly works - Lien wasn't used to playing this sort of character at all, and it shows, although sometimes that works for the episode's advantage. Lien manages to show Tieran slowly becoming more confident in Kes' body - at first appearing uncomfortable, and then becoming more arrogant until she's literally jumping and crawling across tables and pursuing a bisexual, multi-spouse relationship. While this is not Kes per se, we do get to see these elements of her character in a brilliant scene set inside her mind, where Kes and Tieran verbally spar and she reveals herself as just as relentless and ruthless inside as Tieran is making her be on the outside. It's a great scene which really feels like Kes is coming of age as a character - finally realising that she no longer has to rely on her mentors, or on Neelix, to feel confident and active.
This director deserves the seventh circle of hell for inserting
not one, but two scenes of Neelix reacting orgasmically to a
footrub.
     And, as I mentioned before, this is where that relationship ends. This is one of the weaker points of the episode - it is Tieran who breaks up with Neelix, as opposed to Kes herself. The status of Kes/Neelix is never brought up again after this, with it only becoming truly obvious a few episodes later in Darkling where Kes starts dating again. It seems incredibly odd that an event like this, one with some significance to continuity, is so brushed over. While it's obviously very apparent that the writers wanted to be rid of Kes and Neelix's dalliance as soon as possible, allowing the development that this episode provides, it would have helped the characterisations even more if this breakup had more development than a five-second-scene near the end where Kes doesn't accept Neelix's hug! That way, we might have allowed the characters to explain why they were together in the first place - implied to be the appeal that Neelix had to Kes as both an outsider and someone with experience - instead of all that having to be read from very passive subtext.
     But, as difficult as it was to maybe realise it had happened, that break-up did happen. And Warlord does mark a point of change for the season, almost as much as the previous story did. This story marks the introduction of the Paxau Resort hologram, an interesting new locale for the show somewhat like Chez Sandrine in Season Two. More importantly, Kes from hereon out is more independant and willing - she spends less time defined by her relationships with others (Neelix, Paris, The Doctor, Tuvok) and more time shining as her own being - a plot development that would later lead to the explanation of her leaving the series at the beginning of the fourth season. As a marker for this moment of change, Warlord works exceptionally well, as well as being a whole bucket of fun.

Thanks

NEXT WEEK: The omnipotent Q attempts to pay for sex with Janeway by offering to send Voyager home. And then the Q continuum fights a civil war using muskets and cannons. I am not kidding. We approach the mess that is Q and the Grey.

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