Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “The Gift”

“The Gift”
Written by Joe Menosky
Directed by Anson Williams
Season 4, Episode 2
Production episode 170
Original air date: September 10, 1997
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. Cargo Bay 2 is still full of Borg tech. Seven is regenerating in one of the alcoves. Janeway, Tuvok, and the EMH enter the bay and the latter reports that her human immune system is now rejecting the Borg implants since she’s been cut off from the Collective.

The EMH revives her, and she immediately demands that she be returned to the Collective. Janeway refuses to go back into Borg space and risk her ship, but she does promise to help Seven transition back into being an individual. Seven is less than thrilled at the notion, and—devastated by being cut off from the Collective—throws a temper tantrum until the EMH sedates her again.

The ship is still laden with Borg tech, and it’s now interfering with ship’s operations. They can’t go to warp, so they’re stuck at impulse—Torres, Kim, and the engineering staff are doing the best they can to pry out the Borg tech, but it’s insidious.

In sickbay, the EMH is treating Seven, with Tuvok getting in the way because he wants to stay close. The EMH asks Kes for a diagnostic tool, and Kes summons it to her hand telekinetically. She also is able to remove a now-harmful Borg implant from Seven’s brain with telekinesis.

Apparently, her exposure to Species 8472 has increased her psionic abilities to the same level they were when she met the Ocampa who were with Suspiria. Tuvok takes her off to work on some telepathic exercises with her. However, Kes impresses Tuvok with her control, her power, and most of all with her ability to see matter at smaller than the subatomic level.

Seven, now with many fewer Borg implants, is brought to engineering to assist Torres in removing the Borg tech. While she works, Seven discovers a subspace relay, and immediately erects a forcefield and tries to send a signal to the Borg. Chakotay is unable to cut off her access from the bridge, but Kes senses what Seven is doing and overloads the console she’s working on, rendering her unconscious.

Kes’ actions destabilized the integrity of the hull on the engineering deck. She wants to explore her new abilities further, but Tuvok fears for the safety of both her and the ship.

Seven has been placed in the brig. Janeway had thought she could trust Seven to help them, and Seven says that her desire to help was sincere—but as soon as she saw the subspace relay, she was compelled to try to reunite with the Collective. Janeway reiterates that she will help Seven adjust to individuality, but Seven insists she be returned to the Collective, and accuses Janeway of trying to assimilate her.

Star Trek: Voyager "The Gift"

Screenshot: CBS

Neelix and Kes share a Talaxian drink that they haven’t had since the day they arrived on Voyager. Neelix is thrilled to see that she’s fulfilling her potential and admits that he was one of the things that held her back. She starts to explain how her perceptions have changed, and then she uses her powers to alter the table they’re sitting at—but the effects are felt throughout the deck, as Kim detects a massive hit to deck two’s structural integrity. Upon arrival in the mess hall, they see Kes ethereal and glowing.

Kes is brought to sickbay. Tuvok reports that sensor scans showed that Kes was temporarily losing molecular cohesion. The EMH has no idea what’s happening to her or how to stop it. Kes offers to help him try to figure it out, after Janeway says that this is less a medical issue than a question of particle physics.

Seven starts hurling herself into the brig forcefield, prompting Ayala to summon Janeway. Seven is beyond frustrated. She doesn’t know how to be human and she wants to return to the only home she’s ever known: the Collective. Janeway lowers the forcefield and shows her images of the Hansen family, including little Annika, which is who Seven was before she was assimilated. But Seven doesn’t know who that is, doesn’t know how to be individual, doesn’t know how to function without the voices of the rest of the Borg in her head. She lashes out at Janeway, punching her, then collapses on the bunk, miserable. Despite having been slugged, Janeway comforts her.

Kes summons Janeway to her quarters. The Ocampa says she needs to leave the ship. She won’t be able to control her emerging powers for much longer, and it will endanger Voyager. This is her choice—she’s becoming something greater, and she can’t be contained by a vessel any longer. Janeway is sad, but gives her a big hug—and then Kes starts to transform.

There isn’t time for her to say goodbye to everyone, and Janeway takes her to the shuttle bay. She starts to destabilize further, and Janeway calls for a site-to-site transport to the shuttlecraft—but Kim can’t get a lock on Kes. However, Tuvok joins them and mind-melds with her, which stabilizes her long enough to get to a shuttlecraft.

Star Trek: Voyager "The Gift"

Screenshot: CBS

Once she’s away from the ship she completely discorporates, but before she does, she telepathically tells the crew she’s giving them a gift.

The next thing they know, they’re almost 10,000 light-years closer to the Alpha Quadrant.

The EMH has removed many of the Borg implants. He’s also stimulated follicle growth (which he dryly adds is a vicarious experience for him), giving Seven a full head of hair. He’s also provided her with a silver skintight, curve-hugging outfit that the EMH inexplicably describes as balancing functionality and aesthetics. Seven says it’s acceptable and promises that she won’t try to assimilate them again. Janeway says that if that holds true for a few weeks, she’ll let her have more access to the ship.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? It’s not entirely clear why the Borg tech added to Voyager was useful and made them stronger in the previous episode and is now, suddenly, a danger to the ship.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway reinforces repeatedly to Seven that she’s an individual now, that they’ve given her back what the Borg took from her as a small child. She’s also reluctant to let Kes go. In both cases, her own expressed wishes are contrary to what the other person says she wants.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok tries to help Kes with her burgeoning powers, as he has been all along, but it quickly becomes clear that she’s beyond his ability to aid her. He also makes sure there are at least two security guards on Seven at all times.

At the very end, he puts his Vulcan meditation candle—which Janeway says she was present for Tuvok’s purchasing of—in the window of his cabin for Kes, a sweet and uncharacteristically sentimental gesture on his part.

Half and half. Torres is very cranky about the Borg additions to her ship.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is able to remove most of the Borg implants, leaving only the ones that aren’t particularly harmful to Seven now that she’s removed from the Collective. And then he gives her styled blond hair and a skintight outfit for reasons passing understanding.

Forever an ensign. Kim tries making small talk with Seven. It crashes and burns very hilariously.

Resistance is futile. Janeway takes what Chakotay learned about Seven from their temporary link last time to discover that she was a girl named Annika Hansen. The Hansen family were explorers who rejected the Federation entirely, and were last heard from taking a ship out in the general direction of the Delta Quadrant for which they did not file a flight plan.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Neelix and Kes get to share one final drink for old times’ sake before she turns into a being of pure energy.

Star Trek: Voyager "The Gift"

Screenshot: CBS

Do it.

“Perhaps she’s experiencing an aftereffect of some kind.”

“A reasonable diagnosis—for a security officer.”

***

“If you think there’s a risk, Mr. Tuvok, you can throw one of your little forcefields around the chamber.”

“A prudent security measure—for a doctor.”

–Tuvok and the EMH trading sass.

Welcome aboard. No guest stars as such, though extra Tarik Ergin, who has appeared regularly since the premiere as Ayala, gets dialogue for the first time, when he guards Seven in the brig.

Trivial matters: This is Jennifer Lien’s last appearance as a regular. She’ll return for a guest appearance in “Fury” in the sixth season, though she’ll get the same “also starring” billing she got in this and the prior episode.

Janeway references ex-Borg she’s met to Seven, referring to the cooperative Voyager encountered in “Unity.”

More details of Annika Hansen’s backstory will come four episodes hence in “The Raven.”

Bryan Fuller, who would join the staff this season, was asked to pitch ideas for how to write Kes out of the show, and he came up with the notion of her powers going out of control and her turning into that old Trek standby, a being of pure energy. Originally Kes was to be written out several episodes into the season, but it was changed to the second episode, and so there was a time crunch, and Joe Menosky took on the writing of it instead of Fuller.

Voyager loses another shuttlecraft in this episode, as Kes goes cosmic while in a shuttle, and even if the vessel survived that, Voyager left it 10,000 light-years behind. That’s now five they’ve lost, following the ones that were either destroyed (“Initiations” and “Non Sequitur”), damaged beyond repair (“Parturition”), or captured and dismantled (“Unity”).

In the Mirror Universe, Kes had what seemed to be a similar fate to what happens to her in this episode in your humble rewatcher’s short novel The Mirror-Scaled Serpent in the trade paperback Mirror Universe: Obsidian Alliances, but it turns out to have been a ruse by Tuvok.

Star Trek: Voyager "The Gift"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “Ten years closer to home…” I have a bit of a confession to make. Where the prior three Star Trek rewatches have been shows that I really was rewatching, with only a handful of episodes I didn’t have at least a partial memory of, there are huge swaths of Voyager that I never saw.

So earlier this week when I complained about the lack of any kind of discussion of what they were doing to Seven of Nine, it was done with a complete lack of knowledge on my part that said discussions would happen in the very next episode. Dopey me.

Joe Menosky does an excellent job of addressing the problem I raised. Jeri Ryan also deserves a huge amount of credit for showing the sheer agony that Seven is going through. She’s spent her entire life with millions of voices in her head, and the sheer quiet is hell for her. Yes, Janeway really didn’t have much choice, but she committed a horrific assault on the person of Seven of Nine, one that leaves her in devastated agony.

Seven’s final acceptance of that fate seems a bit quick, but she’s also an even more logical being than Tuvok in her own way. Especially once Kes leapfrogs them so far away from Borg space, it only makes sense for her to resign herself to her fate.

Ryan’s is not the only superb performance. Jennifer Lien does a lovely job in her swan song, as Kes’ eagerness to learn applies to the changes she’s undergoing. Tim Russ also deserves huge amounts of credit for an understated but passionate performance, as he very subtly shows his concern for, helplessness to assist, and sadness at the departure of Kes—and he still has time to be ultra-sassy to the EMH about the security arrangements for Seven.

Having said all that, the episode falls down in two major areas, neither of which are entirely the fault of this script as such.

The first is that Kes suddenly turning into a super-psychic would be a lot more convincing if anything significant had been done with her psionic abilities since “Cold Fire.” But where that episode should have been the start of Kes’ journey that came to a head in this episode, her telepathy was mostly ignored after that, only dusted off and brought out for plot purposes in “Warlord” and the “Scorpiontwo-parter, which, at least, provided a reason for Kes to suddenly get the power-up. Because it’s been such a non-factor, though, it feels somewhat out of left field.

And then we have Seven of Nine’s outfit and hair.

I’ve said many times that Seven is the only character in television history whose character development was undermined by her costuming, and this episode proves it. She’s a Borg who is slowly coming to realize that she has to find her individuality. The blond hair and the skintight silver outfit and the big-heeled boots should have come at the end of a long journey, at least half the season, while she slowly divested herself of the Borg implants.

But that would deny the producers the opportunity to show Jeri Ryan, Person With Boobs as much as possible. To make matters worse, the choice of costume and hair was apparently made by the EMH, a sentient being whose personality is based on an asshole.

So we’ve got this new character who has been artificially male-gazed in a rather revolting manner for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the character and everything to do with external factors relating to it being a TV show. It undermines every single choice made with the character in this part of the season. At least Ryan is able to elevate matters, as Seven’s journey in the series in general and this episode in particular is compelling as hell.

Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s latest novel is To Hell and Regroup, a collaboration with David Sherman. The third book in David’s “18th Race” trilogy of military science fiction novels, this concludes the alien-invasion tale begun in Issue in Doubt and continued in In All Directions. The book is on sale now in trade paperback and eBook form from eSpec Books.

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