Voyager rewatch 3.10 – “Warlord”

The male gaze is at it again.

And also the … Talaxian foot fetishist gaze? I don’t even know, you guys.

This is a Lisa Klink script, so there’s barely a hint of a B-plot — but that hint is, ummmm, Tom and Harry sexing up Neelix’s resort holoprogram? And multiple close-ups on Neelix’s feet?

I’m just so … confused.

I mean, I’m confused about the foot business. I completely understand the addition of some sexy lamps. Like, I hate it, but I get it: UPN had figured out that Voyager got its best ratings in female demographics, and the network wanted manlier eyeballs.

(An attempt at equality was made, with B’Elanna giving herself a speedo-clad poolboy, but one guy, in one scene, doesn’t quite match up to three women in multiple scenes. That’s setting aside the awkward fact that none of these human props are actually sexy. Moderately attractive, but about as sexual as a store mannequin.)

The A-plot sees Kes possessed by the personality of a centuries-old warlord. It’s not inherently bad, and Jennifer Lien gives a hell of a performance as she swings wildly between scenery chewing, intimate intimidation, machismo and manic pixie nightmare girl. It’s not Lien’s fault that nothing else in the story matches the standard she’s setting.

Nor is it her fault that, well, this wants to be a sexy story, and Voyager is just not a sexy show. Kes/Tieran’s scenes might have worked better if the episode hadn’t opened with the tropical exploitation of the resort — it feels like the show is going, “LOOK! WE CAN TRY TO BE SEXY IN A WHOLE LOT OF DIFFERENT WAYS!”

Part of the problem, I think, is that possessed!Kes is a character type the audience has already seen — she’s more or less Intendant Kira from DS9’s mirror universe episodes, right down to the leather pants and eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil bisexuality. You start to get the impression that, for the Star Trek writers of the ’90s, feminine evil only comes in one flavour — and one dimension.

(I like to contrast Intendant Kira with Discovery‘s Emperor Georgiou, who is also leather-clad, morally ambiguous and pansexual, but who has much richer relationships, and dimensions of her life that don’t revolve around sex at all.)

The politics side of the story itself is solid, and the script does a fair bit of work to overcome the fact that it all takes place in a couple of claustrophobic sets. Yes, it feels a bit like something out of ’70s-era Doctor Who, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! I just wish there had been more worldbuilding and less uncomfortable flirtation.

(I am open to shipping many pairings, but I would like to erase that possessed!Kes/Tuvok kiss from my mind. Though in fairness, that’s how they feel as well.)

I also wish there were more consequences for Kes going forward, especially since her final scene with Tuvok is all about acknowledging that this experience has changed her. But I also wish that scene had involved Neelix, instead — given how possessed!Kes, you know, broke up with him and all. Possession or no, that marks the end of a relationship which has been part of the show since the beginning, and regardless of how poorly portrayed or unpopular, its ending deserved some acknowledgment.

But here are some things I liked in this episode

  • I mentioned Jennifer Lien’s performance, but I’m just gonna highlight it again. She was really, really talented, and I think it’s sad that her life has taken some pretty terrible turns since she was fired from Voyager.
  • If Tuvok wanted to wear Ilari tactical gear full-time, I wouldn’t complain.
  • Like, guys, you don’t need to bring in models wearing shiny swimwear — just take the actors you already have, and put them in black.
  • Garrett Wang’s hair is very floppy in the teaser, and his civilian outfit is flattering and not horribly dated.
  • Tom’s, on the other hand … but it’s all fodder for the presentation I shall one day make on Vests In Nineties SF.
  • Janeway pulling out her phaser rifle and riding to the rescue of one of her officers is never a bad thing.

In conclusion

I really do think this would have been better with Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen. Two weird plastic neck crowns out of five.

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