Voyager rewatch 3.20 – “Favorite Son”

Space Millennial Harry Kim’s suspicions are raised when people tell him he is, in fact, special.

There are three ways to read this episode, so that’s how I’m going to break up the post.

Reading the first: it’s odysseus and the sirens

Not gonna lie, I thought I was really clever to spot that parallel, and then the legend is discussed in the coda.

Which, guys — you don’t need to do that. Trust your audience (and let me pretend I’m very clever).

But I will highlight the way the wedding scene is designed to call to mind other Classical and mythological elements. Red veils were used in Rome, and the blindfolding of the groom calls to mind various shenanigans involving Thor, Loki and wedding deceptions.

Reading the second: Voyager just has real issues with women, okay?

On Memory Alpha, director Marvin V. Rush is quoted several times describing this as “a male fantasy piece with a dark twist”.

And I’m like, okay, but, like … nothing here interrogates the “male fantasy”.  Oh, the sexy, compliant women are actually monsters? The script itself points out that this twist has been around since the Bronze Age. Oh, they just want to use men to reproduce? Did we not just get into that sort of MRA territory with Seska?

Part of the problem is that the “male fantasy” is awfully generic. Voyager has spent a fair amount of time this season striving to appeal to the all-powerful male demographic, and doing so in a fairly blatant, obvious way. I suppose the Taresians, good misandrists that they are, think no one ever went broke underestimating men, but it’s mostly pretty dull.

And … look. This is a Harry Kim story. And we know that Harry isn’t into aggressive women, or blatant, in-your-face sexuality. Tom is enthusiastic about the 90% female planet (because apparently his character development of the last three seasons is an optional extra), but Harry? His discomfort is palpable.

(Between you and me, the Taresians might have had better luck if they had sent the matriarch to seduce him. I’m not saying that Harry has some sort of Oedipal thing going on, but I’m also not saying he doesn’t.)

I realise, of course, that expecting Voyager to interrogate its “male fantasy” is asking a lot. But it’s frustrating that the script doesn’t really delve into Taresian culture, or give the women any character traits beyond cat fights. It’s not quite “Mudd’s Women” for the 1990s, but close.

Reading the Third: a character piece centred around Harry Kim

Plot-wise, this is predictable and thin. But, like a lot of Voyager, the real joy is in the characters.

Back when I covered “Threshold”, I outlined how Tom, Harry and B’Elanna are different types of gifted-kid-turned-slightly-dysfunctional-adult. Allow me to copy and paste

  • [Tom] is the living embodiment of Gifted Kid Who Grew Up To Be A Mediocre Adult.
  • As opposed to Harry, Gifted Kid Who Grew Up To Be A Perfectionist With Anxiety.
  • And B’Elanna, Gifted Kid Who Was Overlooked Because Of Her Marginalised Identity And Responded By Acting Out.

(I hope that future generations of Trekkies will look back and see this as my greatest contribution to fandom.)

I think a lot of us can identify with Harry Kim, Space Millennial. Oh, your parents said you were remarkable and you always struggled to live up to that? You still strive to please authority figures? You secretly wish you were a badass? You screw up at work, go home and have nightmares about it?

Mood.

Now, my work screw-ups have never had a body count, but hey, it’s a heightened reality.

Harry is often overlooked by the scripts, and you will recall my complaint that “Alter Ego” made him appear less successful with women than he is. “Favorite Son” lets Harry be a multi-faceted character: he’s an anxious turtleduck, but he’s also a guy with a lot of friends, who lets B’Elanna tease him about his new spots, and who — when he turns against the Taresians — manages to charm them long enough to delay discovery for a few moments.

Where this episode doesn’t work for me is that, while Harry is great, the script doesn’t give him a lot to work with in terms of the Taresians. It’s that generic male fantasy problem again.

I have read that the original plan with this episode was to have Harry become an alien permanently. And I understand that some people feel like it was a step back to have him return to the status quo — but that didn’t have to be bland. We got to see how complex and interesting Harry can be when the script allows it, and it’s a shame we don’t see this side of Harry more often.

Hair and costuming notes

First: I don’t want to tell the hair people how to do their jobs, but there was a PRIME opportunity to give Garrett Wang floppy boy band hair for at least a whole act, and instead we only caught a glimpse in the final fight. Come on, guys, spare a thought for the teenage girls in the audience.1

Second: Okay, look. All the Taresian women wear dresses which are cut differently but operate on roughly the same aesthetic lines. Block colours and a nice stripe at the top. It’s cute, it’s co-ordinated, it’s not too dated. It’s just a bit, you know. Early Destiny’s Child.

Third: I was going to issue a complaint, that the Taresian women get cute dresses and the men wear boxy grey blocks.

But then I remembered the horrors which are unleashed whenever ’90s Trek attempted to make men deliberately sexy. Stick with the boxes, guys.

Other observations

  • One of the Taresian women beating up Harry in the climax is Patricia Tallman, formerly Gates McFadden’s stuntwoman, occasional Trek guest star, and a regular on Babylon 5 for most of its run. It’s always nice to see her face!
  • And one of Harry’s girlfriends is played by Kristanna Loken, who would go on to play the T-X in Terminator: Rise of the Machines. Literally the only thing I remember about that movie is that she had the power to make her boobs bigger, because of course.
  • Honestly, I think the Taresians were thinking too small. They have a virus which gives aliens an instinctive urge to murder their enemies, and they only use it for reproduction? Come on, now, ladies.
  • A planet whose population is 90% female? Harry, they’re lesbians.

In conclusion

This is another one that I’m recommending selectively. Big fan of Harry Kim, Space Millennial? This one’s for you. Not a fan? WHY NOT? I mean, move on. Two and a half red veils out of five.

  1. Look, I may not be a teenage girl NOW, but I was then!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.