The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
This is not just a review; it's a retelling of the episode from start to finish, limited only by my ability to remember the details. I do this for my friends in uniform and those living overseas or who otherwise do not have access to the episodes as they are aired.
This is Kes. This is Kes on a power trip. Any questions?
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
Neelix is making gurgling baby noises. He is laying on a chair, and his face and hands are doing what little babies do when they're happy. He is mostly dressed, but his nekkid feet (the most hideous thing shown on regulated network television this decade), and all six toes--if you play the Little Piggy game, what does that sixth Piggy do?--are being rubbed by a swim-suited Talaxian female (who apparently look far better than Talaxian males), who smiles demurely. A Talaxian male decked out in black, brings him a drink Gallina nectar), which Neelix enjoys, then gives the life history to Kim and Paris. The whole experience is a Holodeck rendition of a very exclusive and upscale Talaxian vacation resort. He says it's a perfect place to relax, and as morale officer it's his duty to make sure that the legendary overworked Voyager crew gets the opportunity. It is a very tranquil setting, with a nice view.
Kim and Paris, decked out in off-duty attire, exchange a look when Neelix asks how they like it. Kim is polite, but Paris can't help but tinker "just a little" to make the experience a little more "fun" (the Terran curse of the universe). Paris starts with the drink, supplementing Neelix's nectar with something called Ricari Starbursts (swirling neon-hued liquid in tall glasses with festive garnish), gives the stuffy drinks guy a wardrobe change to something flowery. Kim says there needs to be more people, and conjures up the Swedish Bikini Team (well, it's a volleyball team, but the three girls would fit right in). Paris can't help but comment, "no wonder your game's improving." Paris adds another flourish, music from earth's Carribean region. Soon calypso is everywhere, the drinks are flowing, and the pride of holographic Talaxian pulchritude meets some comely earthling counterparts.
Object-oriented programming. You gotta love it.
Kim and Paris seem to be enjoying themselves much more, and they ask Neelix what he thinks of their modifications. Neelix, standing now, has a curious and disapproving look on his face. Turns out he's thinking--no wonder we haven't seen it much. Then he breaks out into a broad smile, grabs a couple of volleyball players, and commences to dance with them mutant six-toed Happy Feet.
Apparently, Sandrine's has some competition.
Janeway calls the senior officers to the bridge. Paris and Kim ask Neelix to save the program; he says he will, but he wants to do some more, er, quality assurance first. He dances--and let's just say that the extra toe doesn't seem to help much in that activity.
* * *
While Neelix plays, Kes is eating plants in her dimly-lit quarters. Doc calls her from sickbay; he says casualties may be incoming.
Paris and Kim, out of uniform (this seems to happen a lot on this ship--with Holodecks and away missions, it's amazing they bother to wear uniforms at all) arrive on the bridge where the screen shows a burning ship in space. For those playing the home game, Janeway's hair is both in a bun and ponytail, a look she's been using a lot lately to show the series' New Attitude. As the ship burns and radiates, the crew does its best to rescue passengers, operating like a well-oiled machine. Before it explodes, Kim reports a successful beamout of the three survivors. "I'm impressed," says Janeway, to everyone--but she was looking at Kim. I think that boy's due for a promotion.
In Sickbay, three patients writhe. Two seem to be recovering, but one grunts in outraged agony, and Kes rushes to him to render aid. Tieran (pronounced tear-an) fights valiantly, his hand outstretched as if to ward off Death himself, but his injuries are too severe to treat, and Voyager's medications apparently don't work. One of the survivors is the wife of the dying Tieran; she rushes to his side just as Doc says it's too late. "He can't be gone, he can't!" the wife sobs. Kes offers a standard consoling pat on the arm...then a decidedly nonstandard wraparound embrace and lingering cheek-to-cheek gesture. "I'm so sorry," Kes says.
Later that day, Janeway meets with the two survivors in her ready room. They explain the recent attack on their ship. "They'd chased us across half the sector." They say it was likely pirates looking to hold them for ransom. He is a physician; the woman is a cousin of the "Autarch." Janeway pours them some coffee. Nori, the widow, says that Kes has been wonderfully supportive for her throughout the ordeal. Janeway says they'll soon reach the planet they came from, Ilari (?) They tell her the Autarch will likely want to thank her personally.
Back to the Holodeck, where Neelix glumly sits between two statuesque volleyballers. Torres arrives decked out in a tasteful but well-appreciated swimsuit. Neelix greets her half-heartedly. "Good to see you too, Neelix," she says, trying not to take it too personally. He apologizes; he's waiting for Kes. He also expresses some surprise that she would come to this particular Paris-themed male paradise of a Holodeck program (we get a close-up of the volleyball team as he says this). Torres remarks that she's made some modifications of her own; she wiggles a finger, and in pops some holo-generated beefcake in a 24th-century G string. "Great program, Neelix." Neelix pages Kes, who is in Transporter Room 1.
In the transporter room, Kes is leading a tour for the guests when Neelix pages her. "Remember our lunch date, Sweeting?" he asks. Kes face clouds a little, and there's a twitch of her mouth; in any other person, I'd suspect this to be a voiceless curse. But nah, this is Kes; she wouldn't even think of saying an unkind word, especially to her main squeeze. She says she'll be right there.
On the Holodeck, Kes eat silently, just picking at her salad, clearly distracted. Neelix notices, and suggests she go to sickbay. She insists she's fine. Neelix suggests they go for a sail, but she asks that they do it another time. Neelix notes that she's been awfully chummy with the Ilari lately, and she says they'd needed someone to be there for them, and she expects she'll need to continue to spend most of her time with them the next few days.
Neelix offers to help, and promptly finds himself in the middle of being dumped. She accuses him of smothering her, of monopolizing her time, etc. He asks why this hasn't been brought up before, and she says, "maybe I never thought relationships could be any different." She suggests they may need to try spending some time apart. Neelix is crushed.
Kes is definitely not acting herself. If it's what I think it is, Neelix should get together with a holographic Ross from "Friends."
Stardate 50348.1; they arrive at the Ilari homeworld. Janeway goes to the transporter room where the two Ilari are waiting to greet the representative of the Autarch. Kes arrives a few seconds later, dressed in something different from her usual attire--an earth-colored smock. Perhaps her work garb in the Aeroponics bay.
The Ilari representative is beamed aboard. Janeway approaches to greet him, when Kes whips out a phaser, and roasts the man where he stands. Then she does the same to the transporter operator, whom we'll refer to as Johnson. (All dead, nameless crew will henceforth be referred to as Johnson, a habit from my TOS days. So let it be written...)
Yup, it's confirmed--Kes is not herself. But she is pissed.
Before she can fry Janeway, the captain springs into action, grabbing Kes' phaser arm and putting a forearm to her throat. She holds Kes off long enough to get clocked from behind by the "physician."
Kim notes that a phaser just went off in the transporter room. Chakotay springs to action, ordering countermeasures and the like, but Kes has apparently been studying more than medical journals. She also seems to know something of transporters, tactical countermeasures, and perhaps an acting class or two. She orders the two Ilari onto the transporter platform; they seem to be reticent about having their molecules scrambled, but her tone of voice (down an octave, and twice as malevolent) will brook no argument. They do as she says.
A shuttle is released, and Kes and Company are beamed into it. Efforts to retrieve them fail. The shuttle goes to warp.
Man, I knew Neelix was annoying sometimes, but I didn't think Kes would go to such lengths to get some needed "space."
* * *
Chakotay orders a pursuit. Tuvok reports that Ensign Martin a.k.a. Johnson) and the Ilari ambassador are dead, Janeway is injured and in sickbay. Kim reports that he may know how they did what they did, but he didn't expect Kes to have the time or the talent to pull it off.
Meanwhile, the shuttle drops out of warp in orbit around Ilari. The two natives are clearly impressed with their Ocampa mastermind. They are also concerned; between boasts, Kes suffers a migraine. But when Nori comments, Kes tells her she's "as bad as that Talaxian." Kes' chin juts out, her voice and facial expressions are completely different.
This is more than just a desperate attempt to express disapproval of Neelix's hedonistic holo program, I believe.
A newcomer is beamed to the shuttle from the planet. A large black Ilari, wearing a uniform not unlike Captain Sheridan's new outfit on Babylon 5, quickly recovers from the disorientation of his first transport, then notes Nori's good health. He asks for Tieran--and gapes at Kes.
"The host body you were expecting is dead," says Kes; "fortunately this nurse was around at the right time, and she provided me with a suitable replacement."
Aha! Alien possession. Kes is subletting her soul to a megalomaniac...
The general is not pleased at the thought of taking orders from "a little girl." (By the way, I think this guy is the same actor who played the Klingon who got his butt kicked by Data in arm wrestling in that episode where everyone was on a scavenger hunt for DNA and they discovered the "Johnny Appleseed" race that existed billions of years ago, making all humans, Romulans, Cardassians, Klingons, etc., genetic cousins. He kept calling people "Topah" or something like that. Quite a colorful guy, as I recall.)
The "little girl" apparently has "some very interesting abilities that she was only starting to tap into." (Remember "Cold Fire"?) Tieran has learned to make eyes bleed without the help of renegade teenage Ocampa; we soon learn why the Ilari have four air holes above their nose--to vent blood when psychic despots decide to squeeze their brains. And she can do it while talking; she can multitask!
After some bloodletting through the forehead spouts, the general decides he can follow a little girl after all. And so, the terrible reign of the Warrior Elf begins not with a bang, but with a whimper.
On stardate 50351.4, Voyager returns to the planet and beams up Demmas, the eldest son of the Autarch and the next in line for the throne, for a little chat. He tells Janeway in front of the senior officers (and Holodoc, with his new toy) that the three people (Nori and Adin the physician, and Kes) are part of a rebel faction. He explains that Kes has likely been taken over by Tieran, a dangerous former ruler who wants to reestablish his position as Autarch. He had been ruler over two centuries before, a war hero and genius who was great in war, but terrible in peace. Decades before, Demmas' family had led a popular revolution against Tieran.
The crew asks how Tieran could be around two centuries later. Demmas explains that like most megalomaniacs, Tieran became obsessed with his own immortality. He looked into and apparently found a way to transfer his consciousness into another body, becoming in effect immortal--able to survive after the death of a body. He's been body-hopping for a while now, and Kes happened to be the latest host, unwilling though she was.
Demmas is concerned with his planet's future, with stopping Tieran at any cost. Janeway's chief concern is getting Kes back. Demmas says Kes is most likely beyond recovery--once Tieran takes over a body, it's his for keeps. Janeway of course likes to think that 24th-century Federation technology (and perhaps a bit of faith in her ability to save Kes from anything) can rewrite the book on those assumptions. And if they can rescue Kes, then the Tieran threat will be over.
The bridge calls; they've found the shuttle. Four people have beamed out of it, and are now in the main hall of government. Janeway and Kim try to beam those people back to the ship, but Kes/Tieran have set up scramblers to prevent it. Demmas knows what this likely means: his father the Autarch, and his younger brother, are down there.
In the hall of the Mountain King, Kes and her ragged band of rebels bust open the doors and start shooting at anything that moves. Kes has an aim and a focus that Lon Suder would have envied. Kes' personal body count is nearing double-digits by the time she shoots the current Autarch point-blank in the chest and orders his younger son dragged away.
"Where's the older son?" she demands. The physician reports that Demmas beamed to Voyager, the only hitch in Tieran's plan to resume control of the planet. But that minor complication aside--possession is nine-tenths of the law, so it's half hers. She demands the talisman, a large metal neck band. A flunky removes it from the dead Autarch's neck, and hands it to Kes.
"This was stolen from me two hundred years ago, and I've dedicated every moment since to getting it back where it belongs." She puts it on as everyone left alive in the room (both of them) declare "loyalty and service." The look on her face is clear: they'd better mean it.
* * *
The bodies are cleared from the room. Kes is now decked in form-fitting black commando leather. She begins trashing the place, demanding that everything look as it had two hundred years before. Works of art are thrown to the ground. Tapestries are torn down. She almost breaks a vase of plants, but some part of her remembers how much she likes plants. The vase stays intact.
Kes/Tieran grabs a flower and heads over to Nori, who looks uneasy. She's unsure of her role in the new government--or of her marital status. She'd married a man, after all, not a two-year-old girl. It's a trouble the Trills are used to dealing with; among that species, when the Trill symbiont is transferred to a new host, all prior relationships (particularly marital) are effectively dissolved, and it's considered a crime to rekindle old flames (see DS9's "Rejoined"). But Tieran isn't one to follow rules--he damn well makes his own. And despite the body he occupies, he still has feelings for Nori. Feelings he intends to act out. "I'll share everything with you, just as I always promised," she says; it almost sounds like a threat. Kes dang near kisses a petrified Nori full on the mouth (Tieran's a potent personality, but he's also a scary dude, cute packaging or not). It is an act of possession as much as affection.
The kiss is interrupted by a visitor--the younger son of the former Autarch, still being dragged around by guards. Kes introduces herself to the young man, Ameron. "I'm Tieran." He is shocked at the name. She proceeds to seduce him with power...and more. "How'd you like to jump the bones of a two-hundred year-old war hero?" is the crux of the unspoken offer from the mouth of the young body.
"After all that you've done?" Ameron says, disgusted. He tries to run away. Kes/Tieran yanks him back. "That's all in the past!" she coos, not mentioning that it was mere moments in the past. She offers him freedom, power, and nookie. He begins to be tempted.
On the ship, Demmas gives a status report on the planet. He is losing power by the moment; he feels it is necessary to strike, and soon. Demmas also reports the rumors that his brother may be swayed into an alliance with Tieran; he's always been a bit of a wuss, Demmas says. Janeway refuses to join in a civil war, but she's still willing to look into ways of liberating Kes from her mental confinement.
Holodoc reports that he has found how the consciousness was transferred from the dead guy to Kes--a palm full of "bioelectric microfibers". Demmas says that it's likely Kes would get those implanted in the new body as soon as possible. He also has a way to grab the soul of Tieran, a little velcro device which--attached to the forehead--would suck out the offending consciousness.
Demmas still wants to kick butt and blow holes in the evil dude, but Janeway says Kes is not to be char-broiled just yet. Tuvok offers to go on an undercover mission to disable Tieran and rescue Kes.
On the planet, Tieran's physician has completed the changes that will let Tieran's soul escape should the need be. Tieran asks about the headaches while the doc is there. The doc says that's a different problem; the neural pathways aren't totally compatible. Tieran says the real problem is that Kes is still rattling around in there; she wasn't a willing host like the others, and she's still fighting him. "It's invigorating," Tieran says, but there's something in the voice suggesting it's also a concern to him. After all, she's been in there longer than he has, and it is a formidable mind.
The doctor suggests that they transfer Tieran to a more compatible (and willing) host, but Tieran likes the mental abilities of the Kes body. His pride is at stake; "I've been fighting battles worse than this since the day I was born." He gives his autobiography. "I certainly won't surrender to this little girl!" he growls. "You won't mention it again."
The Autarch's war council convenes. Kes/Tieran complains about corruption and poor leadership. Then gets a headache. People ask what's wrong, and Tieran says it's okay--there's a spy in the room. A Vulcan spy. She orders the room sealed, and she rants about how great she is, and how impressive her powers are with Tieran at the controls. She unmasks the veiled faces of the guards, one at a time, expecting one to be Tuvok's. But he's not one of them; he's hiding in the background, and while she's distracted in her self-importance he smacks the device on her cheek. Kes reels. Knowing what it must surely be, the burly general orders it removed, while Nori and others train weapons on Tuvok. The device hadn't had time to work; Tieran is still in control. While Nori threatens death to the enemies of the Autarch, Kes holds up a hand an offers a leer to Nori. "She's so protective of me," she says salaciously. Turning back to Tuvok, she suggests that he can be more useful for his tactical knowledge. "You'll get no help from me," Tuvok says. "You'd be surprised how often I've heard that," Kes replies.
* * *
Kes/Tieran interrogates Tuvok. She circles Tuvok like a one-woman pack of wolves, but he's stoic as always. She decides threats and torture are pointless. She switches to seduction. "With these new abilities it's a simple matter to reach into someone's mind." Apparently she can do so effortlessly with some, though with Tuvok it's tougher. She reads his emotions--embarrassment, worry, and anger. She speaks to him, and we see Tuvok's entire head tremble with exertion to maintain control. It's unclear when she stops talking and starts projecting her words directly into his brain. While she forces her way into his mind, she flirts with him, suggests that he and Kes could easily have been lovers during all that time they studied together, touching each others' minds. She kisses him hungrily. (It's a very sexy scene. Kes is quite a vixen when she puts her (or someone else's) mind to it.)
Tuvok touches her face in a very familiar way--a mind meld. He brings Kes to the surface. She tells him how hard she is trying to fight him. Tuvok encourages her, offers her advice. He tells her to take Tieran's strengths and make them her own. She loses control, until Tieran is firmly back in control. "NO!" she shouts, and the mental force of her words throws him several feet backwards, into a rock, then to the floor and oblivion.
On Voyager, (stardate 50361.7) Plan B--military invasion-- is under discussion. Neelix offers (begs) to help in any way he can, and Janeway smilingly tells him to consider himself drafted. The "detection grid," Demmas says, will be a problem. Harry says he's found a flaw in the grid that may help them get through. Kes/Tieran hails them, telling them she's won. She also mentions that the weakness in the grid is a trap. This perplexes them; "why tell us?" "I'm really not a monster," Tieran insists, but we suspect there's more to it than that. The headache manifests itself, and Tieran seems to reassert himself; he becomes more aggressive, threatening the ship if they don't leave within 30 seconds.
Kes cuts off transmission, the headaches overwhelming her. She orders two warships to pursue Voyager until it leaves orbit. The doctor recommends she relax a little, but she says the headaches are her chief concern, and if he can't fix those (without suggesting again a new host body) he can bloody well leave her alone. Word arrives that Voyager has left orbit. "Let them go," she says. This decision is questioned; Tieran is finding it difficult to hold on to power, both externally...and internally.
They suggest she get some sleep. Tieran suggests they all take a flying leap; sleep means risking Kes gaining control. Kes is already fighting Tieran with greater ferocity. Tieran orders everyone to leave her to herself.
We peer into Tieran's mind. We see him as he sees himself--the man of yesteryear in the portraits now adorning the chamber walls. A tall, fierce man with a black goatee and a mane of unruly hair, he has the look of a caged lion. He is dressed as he no doubt was two centuries earlier in his initial reign--the garb of a warrior. He is sitting in the Autarch's chair in the Hall of the Mountain King.
Kes--the real Kes--is also there. She is standing in her quarters. In the crowded interiors of her shared mind, the room they share is somehow in two places at once. Tieran seems to know he's in for a heck of an argument.
Kes demands that Tieran leave his mind. Tieran isn't about to; he covets her mental powers. He expects to conquer her, as he as conquered so many in his life. He's used to being in control, but also for struggling for everything he's ever earned, from birth to now. Kes knows this; while he's explored her body and mind, she's been exploring his consciousness. But the Kes who is normally full of compassion, finds herself with nothing but contempt for the monster before her.
Tieran tries force, but she resists. Tieran tries seduction--he's too sexy, or thinks he is--but Kes tells him his pathetic excuse for manhood is of no interest to her. (How can she love a man with only five toes?) Tieran returns to bravado, and speechifies grandly how she is no match for him.
But Kes has been learning from her unwanted guest. In fighting him, she can't help but develop some of the same steel that forged his determination. This is a Kes in her terrible Twos, a youngster with the soul of a giant. Her voice takes on a hard edge; she begins to sound like the Kes under the influence of Tieran, but it's all her. As she rants, as she tells him how weak and pathetic she thinks he is, as she tells him what she plans to do with the shriveled remnants of his miserable existence when she regains control. This is a Kes we've never seen before, a person with fire in the belly and death in the eyes. Innocence lost. She may never be the same again.
And if she is, I'll be very upset. This is a seriously life-altering episode, and a return to status quo ante would be unconscionable. You don't battle a warlord without hardening at least a little. I don't care much if her mental powers stick around after this episode--let her lose those but rediscover them over time, as she has been doing since "Cold Fire"--but her attitude should be permanently changed by the experience. Balance her compassion with the occasional fire and steel. Let her kick some butt every now and then.
The room of their minds now almost completely resembles Kes' quarters on Voyager. Tieran is backed into a wall, cowed by her terrible tirade, daunted into paralysis.
Kes/Tieran awakens. The doctor has given her a stimulant; she was in deep, deep sleep. He again insists that Tieran move to another host body.
Kes/Tieran is livid, and swears in her wrath that this body is his, now and forever. As he rants, the doctor bleeds from his four nose holes, filling his eyes with red gore until he ceases to move. "I'll be stronger than ever! Stronger than..."
For the awesomeness of the spectacle, Tieran's shouted words are delivered to an empty, dead room. And they lack the force of conviction. They are suffused, rather, with fear.
* * *
Tieran/Kes proposes a toast to victory. Have you noticed that reigns that are the most tentative, sometimes celebrate the most? Tieran/Kes also announces her engagement to Ameron. Nori looks upset, but Kes swears not to abandon her. Kes takes Ameron's hand, and Nori's hand, and places them all together--she appears to be proposing a "threesome", as well as a political troika. Nori recoils in disgust. Ameron is smirking. Everyone in the room doubts her sanity.
The celebration is interrupted by the announcements of rebellions, nearby fighting, imminent dangers. Tieran refuses to retreat, insists on continuing the celebration. The general refuses to do so; survival seems to win out over his loyalty. And Kes breaking through Tieran's controls. Everywhere, it seems, Tieran's control is slipping; he's alienating his allies, susceptible to his enemies, losing his mind. He proclaims an edict that everyone must grow a garden like the Aeroponics bay.
Tieran is losing everything.
The rebels break through the defenses, and the general strongly urges a retreat. Tieran says he'll shoot anyone who leaves as a traitor. He's completely psychotic by now, seeing enemies where none exist, looking desperately for Tuvok when he isn't there.
In his confinement cave, Paris rescues Tuvok--who then rescues Paris with a well-placed nerve pinch to an approaching guard (actually, Paris holds his own pretty well, but he did it the hard way, hand-to-hand, with a few bruises to his face.). He gives Paris a hand standing up; "someday you're gonna have to teach me how to do that," he remarks, parroting Captain Kirk's long-ago comment to Spock about the same thing.
The Voyager crew--led by Demmas and Action Kate Janeway--invades the Great Hall, and the battle turns quickly to a rout; Tieran's forces are confused and retreating everywhere, led by a guy who can't even control his own body. Neelix chases after Kes, who cowers like a cornered puppy. She reaches for a weapon, and Neelix blasts her with a phaser set on Stun. The physician--apparently not completely dead yet--calls for Tieran and reaches out to him, his hand lightly touching Kes' before being yanked back by a well-armed Demmas himself. Neelix places the handy ACME Soul-o-matic on her cheek and activates it long enough for Kes to tell Neelix that Tieran isn't with her anymore, but he's still alive--he escaped before it was used.
She takes the device and heads for Ameron [not the physician, as I'd earlier guessed; thanks, astute reader], whose demeanor has changed. "You can't do this!" he cries in a guttural panic. "You died a long time ago," she says, her face the very face of justice. "It's time to let go." She activates the device, and within seconds the physician is himself again. And Tieran is dead, once and for all. Kes removes the talisman from around her neck and hands it to Demmas. "It's over," she says. Neelix holds her, but he seems to know that she's changed.
Later, Kes and Tuvok meditate. "Your thoughts a turbulent ocean," he intones. "Visualize yourself floating above them." She says none of his meditations have helped her so far. She feels an immense guilt over the lives cost and altered because of her; she wonders if she could have fought harder. Tuvok reminds her that Tieran's ultimate defeat came from her utter refusal to submit. "You can't ask more from yourself than that." She says her thoughts and feelings, perceptions and relationships, have changed. "How can I go back to my normal life as if nothing ever happened?" she asks.
"You can't. This experience will force you to adapt. You're no longer the same person, and the
course of your life will change as a result. Where that new course leads...is up to you." Her
expression speaks volumes.
If you don't think much of Jennifer Lien's acting abilities, this episode may have been a surprise. I think she did a pretty impressive job. She did an awful lot with that wonderfully expressive voice of hers, and her facial expressions and body language did a passable-to-impressive job of portraying a completely different person, in a variety of moods. I was impressed, anyway.
I've always thought of Kes as a compassionate character, capable of deep intimacy. Her early episodes with Holodoc are a case in point--he grew as a character because of her; she forced him to rethink his programming, asking questions he hadn't thought to consider. She's cute, but in an elfin, fragile sort of way--think an alien Gidget. (Personally, I'm more attracted to Janeway.) Of all the characters, Holodoc is the only one on board (or was, before the birth of Ensign Wildman's baby) technically younger than Kes. She's wise beyond her (nearly three) years, but she's been kind of one-dimensionally compassionate and observant. She needs a defining flaw or two; here's hoping she'll have something to struggle with for a while. It'll make her more interesting.
This episode pretty much belongs to Kes, but Tuvok does play an important part. He has a couple of pivotal scenes with Kes--one where Tieran gives a few demonstrations of her mental abilities, including the invasion of Tuvok's emotional barriers (once again, Anger seems to be Tuvok's dominant emotion, which really doesn't surprise me given his choice of professions), but Tuvok manages to break through and help Kes. The final scene in his quarters, as he tells her what she's in for and the challenges she faces, was a good teaching moment.
Neelix's new holo program, I'm willing to bet, will replace or at least supplement Sandrine's Bar in future episodes. Much as I like Sandrine's, it does seem limiting to have only one place to play. And a Talaxian beach side resort, supplemented by the horndog mind of Tom Paris, guarantees it will be a walk-in beer commercial for the crew to unwind. And it will be an equal-opportunity nudefest, too; if anything is true of Roddenberry's vision, it is that everyone should have something to ogle.
The plot itself is pretty standard--something takes over someone. It's not even limited to science fiction; the theme can be found in ghost stories and tales of demonic possessions, werewolves, doppelgangers, and so on. It's a common Trek plot, as well. The measure of how well it works comes from the story itself, the resolution, and (in a dramatization) in the acting. My favorite this year was in DS9's "The Assignment," where Keiko was overtaken by a "wormhole wraith" and used the threats of Keiko's death to get Chief O'Brien to do her bidding. Here, the theme is "glory days" or "You can't go home again."
Tieran is like any other petty, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood. He's obsessed with his own immortality; he cannot imagine anyone having his unique combination of talents and vision to effectively rule after him, so he is determined to make sure nobody can succeed him. Having once felt the adulation of his people, he cannot imagine ever losing it, even as they storm the castle and unseat him. He has delusions of a utopian rule that hasn't existed, in his case, for centuries. Each time he tries to return, his support diminishes; the more people get to know him, the easier it is to remember why he was deposed to begin with. Voyager gets sucked into a civil war. Even without Kes, this is the plot--they rescue people who turn out to be rebels fighting against the government, and unwittingly cause a power vacuum that they must help to resolve in the name of the Prime Directive.
Add to this the possession story, which in this case is the B Plot. Kes, the embodiment of innocence, compelled to actions she finds horrendous, forced to fight back, inexorably changing herself in the process. "The longer you fight an enemy, the more you resemble him." She fights for a righteous cause, but she emerges scarred and hardened, unable to return to who she was. She still wants to be a good person, but now she'll have to work at it--she's seen the alternative, and having seen it once, can never see dangers without knowing she could resort to it again.
Sexually, this was a ground-breaking episode. Tieran was a sexual predator, and by extension, so was Kes. In a way, she became what the "mirror universe" Kira only aspires to be--dangerously omnisexual. The Evil Kira is primarily a hedonist; Tieran recognizes seduction as a tool of power, and in the body of a cute woman, he feels particularly capable. His wife Nori doesn't seem quite so comfortable with a female husband, and his suggestion for a political and sexual triangle is more threatening than provocative. I saw this moment as a point where Tieran, thinking he's got it all, loses everything. This cap to a premature celebration alienates even his inner circle.
Playing someone else can be a liberating experience. Shatner always had a good time playing Kirk as not-Kirk; his Janice Lester-in-Kirk's body turn in "Turnabout Intruder" was a hoot, and when Iman turned into Kirk in STVI:The Undiscovered Country, he got to pick on himself: "I can't believe I kissed you!" he says to himself. "Must have been the achievement of a life's dream," he retorts. Or words to that effect. Here, Jennifer Lien gets to play a different character, and do things her usual character would never do. And villains are just naturally more fun to play. Lien gets to vamp all over the place, chew scenery, go nuts--it's a great part. The scene where she faces off Tieran in her mind, where she went from timid to Patton, was a nice touch. She did it all pretty well.
One comment about Paris and Tuvok: they make a good on-screen duo, in a cop buddy-film sorta way. First in the Future's End two-parter, and now here, their scenes together worked well. I like how the writers are working in scenes from the Original Series; here, when Tuvok applies a nerve pinch in a fight, and Paris says, "you gotta teach me that one of these days." The chemistry between all the characters has improved dramatically this season, and they're starting to tease each other good-naturedly; Tuvok and Paris seem to make the best foils for each other. (Chakotay and Tuvok's jabs were way too vicious for my taste; this new dynamic is a lot more playful.) It's not to the level of camaraderie that DS9 has, but it's getting there, and I hope they do more with it.
Okay, to recap: the story was okay, but a fairly standard reworking of a well-worked plot. The acting I thought was well above average, at least for Lien. The Federation strike force with Action Kate at the front seemed a little too much to believe (the Prime Directive would usually not allow that level of involvement in a civil war) but what the hey.
Just a random question: when are we going to see some promotions on this ship? Kim's doing a bang-up job, most of the Maquis crew appear to be up to Starfleet standards--I think Janeway ought to do some long-overdue pip dispersal. Perhaps in February Sweeps.
On a 0-10 scale, I'll give this one a 7.25. Good episode, with some very good acting from Lien, but not really on par with the rest of the Sweeps Month efforts.
Next week: Q's biological clock is ticking, and turns to Janeway to wind him up.