Thursday, 11 February 2016

Review: Voyager 4.2: The Gift

Kes says one final goodbye (Shush, Fury isn't, like, a thing.)
Star Trek Voyager - Season Four, Episode Two - The Gift
Written between 30th January and 8th February 2016.

Seven of Nine and Kes share a surprising number of attributes. They're both attractive blond women from very alien cultures who help serve as an audience avatar when the rest of the crew explain things to them. They occupy the same spot in the credits and they both have unique abilities which help the show's writers make stories more interesting. But there's a very key difference between them - Kes was a background character who rarely ended up having a huge effect on the show, while Seven of Nine practically takes over the show for the rest of its run. The Gift is the meeting of two worlds - Kes' definite goodbye and Seven's incredible hello.
     Janeway and crew are trying to help Seven adapt to being disconnected from the Borg, something which the drone greatly resents. As they attempt to treat her, her body now beginning to reject the Borg implants, Kes begins displaying greater telepathic and telekinetic powers. Seemingly brought on by the recent encounter with the telepathic Species 8472, she begins to be able to wield her powers in much greater magnitudes. She uses her mental powers to save Seven's life, and Tuvok begins attempting to train her again like he did in Cold Fire. Janeway tries to have Seven help to remove the Borg technology fused to the ship, but in a moment of opportunity she knocks out Harry and attempts to contact her people. Kes begins to turn incorporeal and to save the ship and herself, she leaves Voyager on a shuttle. As a last gift to the crew who gave her so much, she launches Voyager 10,000ly forward - taking 10 years off of their journey home, and taking them far out of Borg Space. Seven is finally convinced to come round, and The Doctor fits her with a catsuit and a bionic eye.
   Harry Kim couldn't go, but the show couldn't afford to keep him and another actor, so the writers decided to get rid of Kes. As irritated as I am by how much Kes' development felt a little stunted and misdirected over the course of the first three seasons, her departure is at least the culmination of a character arc, with her slowly becoming more independent and headstrong as time went on. The way that it was tied into the examination of Ocampan abilities from Caretaker and Cold Fire felt like a very neat tie back to the show's beginnings, and helped to blend Kes' story with Seven's in a way which felt both tragic and necessary. I really don't see why they couldn't have removed Neelix instead - he was hated by the fans at the time, and the fact he was often coupled with Kes was one of his few saving graces. (Although, as I've said in some of my other reviews, Neelix can be a good character if he tries.)
From one unique female character onto the next.
     The episode's main moral quandary was one that was very much tied into the entire concept of The Borg - the nature of individuality, and of individual freedom. The Federation purports to be the ultimate in individual freedom - there is no money, so everything you do is towards making yourself better, and the galaxy better in general. Want to become a starship pilot? Go ahead, we'll train you up, give you a ship, off you go. Want to be a cook? Go on, enjoy yourself scamp. The Borg, on the other hand, is the most exaggerated nightmare of statism and communism - every being a drone with no individual thought, every action done for the good of the collective. The question that this episode asked was thus: by how much does having been a Borg remove one's ability to hold individual thought once they are disconnected. The answer seems to be, entirely. Seven, now separated from the collective, demands to be reunited with it, but Janeway tells her that, ironically, she no longer has the right to make that choice. I know they had to make this work to keep the character in the show, but it does make Janeway sound a little controlling and hypocritical - especially due to the fact she doesn't even have a long consideration about it.
      Kes' departure from the show and Seven's integration into the cast set forth a new era for the show. It didn't exactly reinvent itself in the way that DS9 managed to do two years earlier, but it did manage to take a show that was spiralling in mediocrity and provide its best season and some of the show's best episodes. The Gift feels a little disparate from the first two parts of this trilogy of story, but I think that's kind of the point - Kes' departure is important, and her decision to leave and launch the crew forward 10,000ly begins the point in the show where Voyager's attempts to find shortcuts home actually work. It's a great departure for Kes, a great development piece for Seven of Nine, and it showed the bright new direction the show was headed in.

Thanks

NEXT WEEK: We finally bring the Tom/B'Elanna romance to a head with the B'Elanna-centric Day of Honor.

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