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Star Trek: Voyager – Fury (Review)

Normally, the return of an old cast member to an established show is a cause for celebration, akin to a belated family reunion.

The obvious examples involve the appearances of cast members from other shows on later spin-offs. Think of the reverence and sincerity with which Star Trek: The Next Generation treated Spock and Scotty in episodes like Unification, Part I, Unification, Part II and Relics. Think about the delight with which Star Trek: Voyager greeted Geordi LaForge in Timeless or Deanna Troi in Pathfinder. Even when Star Trek: Deep Space Nine subverted expectations with Jonathan Frakes’ appearance in Defiant, it was still joyful. If anything, Star Trek: Enterprise went too far in accommodating Troi and Riker in These Are the Voyages…

Self-control.

Even within individual shows, the return of long-absent cast members is often treated as an opportunity to celebrate that character, and perhaps even to acknowledge past missteps involving them. Yesterday’s Enterprise brought back the character of Tasha Yar, and used the opportunity to rewrite her mean-spirited and pointless death in Skin of Evil. When mirror!Bareil visited in Resurrection, the episode became a meditation upon how the character’s intrinsic decency was strong enough to transcend dimensions and to define even the worst version of himself.

This approach to the return of established characters makes a great deal of sense for a wide variety of reasons. Most obviously, the production team have gone out of their way to recruit these actors for this specific purpose; it makes sense that these episodes should serve as a celebration of their contributions to the franchise. Even beyond that, it is safe to say that almost any lead character on a Star Trek series has something resembling a fan base; think about the ominously-named “Friends of Vedek Bareil.” Why bring back a character, and attract in those fans, just to do something horrific?

That healthy blue glow.

All of this serves to make Fury all the more perplexing. Fury is an episode of Voyager that effectively resurrects the character of Kes, a regular on the first three seasons of Voyager who departed the series in The Gift at the start of the fourth season. The return of Kes is a strange choice, in large part because the production team often struggled with what to do with the character while she was part of the core cast. Still, there are any number of interesting possibilities. And there is the possibility that, like Yesterday’s Enterprise or Resurrection, the production team might use the occasion to say something interesting about Kes.

Unfortunately, Fury is a spectacular mess of an episode with half-developed character motivations and a highly surreal premise that undercuts a lot of the appeal of bringing Kes back in the first place.

Having its cake and eating it too.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Warlord (Review)

Warlord is another example of Star Trek: Voyager pitching itself as the most generic iteration of Star Trek.

At its core, Warlord is an example of the old Star Trek staple, the body-swapping personality-swap episode. There are dozens of examples from across the length and breadth of the franchise, asking regular performers to play different characters. The loosest definition would include William Shatner’s work in The Enemy Within or Roxann Dawson’s work in Faces. A more narrow sampling would include episodes like The Turnabout Intruder or The Schizoid Man. There were plenty of these episodes before Warlord, and there will be plenty after.

"A toast, to that most reliable of plot devices..."

“A toast, to that most reliable of plot devices…”

It is not a bad device, in theory. After all, playing the same character for twenty-odd episodes a year can be exhausting for a performer. Many actors relish the opportunity to shake things up, to put a new spin on an old role. (Chris Pine has only played Kirk three times, but already relishes the opportunity to see the character “go dark.”) It can be refreshing for the audience as well, giving them the opportunity to see exciting new sides of familiar characters. Warlord certainly has an intriguing enough hook in that regard: casting Jennifer Lien as a psychotic dictator.

The extent to which a given possession episode work is largely a matter of execution rather than concept. By that measure, Warlord comes up very short.

Make love, not Warlord.

Make love, not Warlord.

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