Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Fury"

“Fury” is the infamous return of Jennifer Lein as Kes. I, along with just about every fan and reportedly Lein herself, did not want to see her leave in the third season. Kes was a character with a lot of potential. While it is impossible to determine exactly how much VOY suffered by her absence, fans always felt she enriched the show. There was even an unusual for Star Trek vocalization of irritation Lein had been fired for no good reason than to limit the number of main characters to Seven. It seemed only natural to bring lein back eventually to give her character some closure. I cannot even call ’fury’ a good faith effort to do so. Neither does anyone else, fan or cast member alike. We are all unified in our belief “Fury” is a disgrace.

The problem can be broken down into three elements. One, it is an action oriented episode devoid of any real emotion. Two, once Kes’ motives for her destruction actions are revealed, all I can say is, “That’s it? You are just having a separation anxiety tantrum?” Finally, the story creates a blatant time travel paradox I cannot help trying to work through when I ought to be mining for whatever meager nuggets of value “Fury” has buried within it. I am confident that was not the intended result.

The episode begins during the sixth season time period when an aged kes approaches Voyager and requests to come aboard. Once there, she goes on a special effects laden rampage towards engineering. She kills Torres once she gets there, then uses power from the warp core to travel back in time to a point at which Voyager has been in the Delta Quadrant only for a few weeks. It is all very quick and dazzling. As a comic book fan, I remember joking to my roommate at the time that kes has gone all Dark Phoenix on us.

Kes uses her powers to change from an old woman to her youthful appearance (Why did she not do that, anyway? For the sake of dramatic impact to the audience?) and takes the place of herpast self after knocking her out with a hypospray. Kes then contacts the Vidiians who have been pursuing Voyager with an offer--she will give them tactical info on the ship, allowing the crew to be harvested for organs, if she and her past self are allowed safe passage to Ocampa. The Vidiiansd agree. We still do not know Kes’ motivations, only that she feels abandoned by the Voyager crew. Star Trek veteran actor Vaughn Armstrong makes what I assume is his shortest appear age ever. He gets less than two minutes of screen time as the Vidiian kes communicates with on a desktop monitor.

As a matter of plot convenience, Tuvok suddenly has a never before mentioned and hereafter ignored ability to sense faint echoes of time travel. In the first season time period, he seems aware of Seven, Naomi Wildman, and the Delta Flyer. something is not quite right about Kes, but what it is remains ambiguous enough for three acts worth of mystery before Janeway confronts Kes during the Vidiian attack. I hasten to mention vidiians board the ship in one scene that lasts only long enough for an exchange of phasor volleys. It is an action scene for the sake of having an action scene for the sake of having an action scene. Rather pointless, particularly considering how anticlimactic the space battle is. The Vidiians break it off and run.

The fight with the Vidiians is tossed aside quickly because the emphasis is on the physical confrontation between Janeway and Kes. Conveniently, Kes’ powers seem a lot less potent during the fight. While at the beginning of the episode she was blasting the ship apart and killed torres effortlessly, she only manages to knock Janeway down a few times. Perhaps I should chalk that up to Janeway being awesome. Before Janeway kills Kes--c’mon, you knew she would--Kes reveals her motivation--she was not quite ready for the big, bad universe and had no one to protect her. It is all Voyager’s fault.

Excuse me? Kes left of her own accord. No one wanted her to go. Even so, if she was not ready for the nasty bits of reality that are out there, it is her fault, not anyone else’s. We never even learn what traumatized her so badly the writers obviously meant to leave her experienced horrors up to the imagination, but instead of conjuring up visions of the cruelties of life, I am left marveling at what a flimsy excuse for a childish tantrum Kes has rationalized.

Not time to fret about that, though. Janeway awakens the real Kes and asks her to make a recording for her future self to be played upon her attack in the sixth season. Only Kes, Tuvok, and Janeway know about it from the first season on. I do not even want to think about the retroactive continuity problems that causes. When future Kes attacks, Janeway knows to clear out engineering, thereby saving Torres, and shows future Kes the message from her past self. The message explains exactly what I just did--all her choices were her own. She cannot blame anyone else. Future Kes decides against taking revenge and instead allows Janeway to help her go home. How she will make it 40,000 light years in a shuttle before she dies of old age is anyone’s guess.

The conclusion creates a version of the grandfather paradox. Future Kes travels back in time to the first season, does her thing, gets killed, and all that leads to her past self making a recording to convince her not to travel back in time again. It works, which means the catalyst for past Kes to create the recording never happens. So where is the startying point? It is a causal loop without a beginning. I hate those.

I am not a big fan of “Fury,” either. It is an excuse for lots of special effects shots with no heart or logic to it. Once Kes’ motivation is revealed, the episode becomes an eve bigger letdown. Lein deserved a far better send off than this thrown together junk. I would have preferred they never brought her back as opposed to this.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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